Some days I can write and write without pause or concern.
On those days I may suddenly stop what I am doing, or wake up from sleeping just to write something down as it flows from my fingertips freely.
Then on the other days, weeks, months…I cannot put a paragraph together to save my life.
I stare at the computer screen or the notebook and I think nothing. It is as though my hands no longer work. They do not move for the pen or keys effortlessly. Instead, they tap and fidget and move on to other tasks.
During these times I have to recharge myself. In order to do so, I have to do one, or usually all three, of these simple things:
1. Isolate myself.
I can usually write amidst distractions, sometimes even multitask and watch a movie or show as I write. However, when I am in a funk, I have to lock myself away. If I am working on a story, I have to forget this world completely and submerge myself in that one. My favorite thing is to go to a library and find an isolated spot to empty my mind.
Sometimes that means putting in my headphones and writing until the batteries die. Other times that means complete silence. Most importantly, it means just me and my thoughts.
2. Catch up on Current Events.
One of the first things I do when I have ‘writers block’ or am stuck is read the news. Yes, the news! It is a crazy, sad, amazing, surprising world we live in and sometimes news stories present ideas, circumstances and characters that I just cannot resist.
For example, in 2010 while I was getting my undergrad, I had a story due for a creative writing class. I had started and deleted stories over and over and for the life of me could not get one to stick. Then, after reading a news story about three people who were murdered and then left inside a hollow tree, I was suddenly struck with inspiration.
The news article had mentioned that the killer had watched his victims. He had camped out in the trees and watched the everyday happenings of them. My story had nothing to do with murder or hollow trees, but that one tiny detail of the news story sparked a scene which led to a 12 page short story.
3. Free write.
I free write. I always feel ridiculous at first, but it does help me. I write what blurts out of my mind without thinking about it. Sometimes I do this before reading the news for inspiration, sometimes I do it after to help sort out my thoughts. Free writes were hard for me at first because I over-thought it all. Once I let my mind and thoughts go, however, it became ridiculously easy. They are not something that others need to read, they are simply for me.
Free writes are never pretty. At least mine aren’t. They can start out with something as simple as:
“I’m tired. I don’t know what to write. My dog won’t stop chasing her tail. Why do dogs chase their tails? Does it hurt? Do humans do things like that?”
Then, eventually either all of the jumbled, ‘useless’ thoughts will be out of my head and on paper, or one of those thoughts will lead to something useful. Hopefully, the latter.
I may not need to do all three of these things when I am at a loss for words. Sometimes only one will do the trick. If I do not feel like secluding myself in a writing bubble or packing up to camp out in the library, then I may just free write or read through some news articles.
One thing is for sure though: these three things have never failed me.
Author: Amanda Reed
Apprentice Editor: Khara-Jade Warren/ Editor: Renee Picard
Photo: Klearchos Kapoutsis/Flickr