Writer’s block. Such an ominous phrase. Even more so if you are a writer (or fancy yourself one).
I’ve spent my fair share of time hiding behind that wall, staring at a blank notebook or white screen, unable to pick up the pen or peck at keys on my keyboard. And truthfully, sometimes the words just won’t come. But, writer’s block is not that scary. You just have to know how to go around it. Not through it. Around it.
I’ve found that trying to go through it can be catastrophic. Eventually, you bend your quill on the wall and walk away thinking you just don’t have the tools. Not so, but it certainly feels that way. So, I go around it. And it works. Of course, going around your block can be almost as difficult as going through it.
What do I mean by going around your block? Write for writing’s sake. It doesn’t even matter what. If you’re truly desperate, you can open up your dictionary and writing a short sentence about each entry. (Aardvarks are a funnily named animal.) (Baboon is even more funny. Especially if you pronounce it Bah-Boon.) Find your grocery list. Write a sentence about each item. (Milk is white and contains calcium, which is good for your bones.) (Bread is a wholesome food. Unless you have Celiac’s Disease.) If you’re feeling uber adventurous, write a paragraph about how the food makes you feel. Or how you feel about the animal.
If you want to stay in a more fictional bent, cruise on over to CNN or Fox News. Take the first story that catches your eye. Now write a fictional short of a few paragraphs about the situation. Mud Slides in California? Write about a boy caught in a truck bed of a truck that is being pushed down the hill towards a cliff. What does he feel? How is he saved? Is he saved? Snow storm in Texas? Write about a 40 car pileup and how the people at home react when the people in the pileup don’t show. Who’s mad at their husband/wife/other for not showing up for Timmy’s basketball game? Who immediately expects the worst. Then, write about their thoughts and feelings when they find out what really happened.
I think we get stuck too often behind the wall with the phrase “write what you know”. Yes, that is always best; but much like a diet or a workout regimen, if we only eat the stuff we like (“know”) or only do the exercises that we like (“know”), we’ll end up fat and out of shape. So too will our writing engine end up fat and out of shape. Sometimes, you’ve got to push yourself to stretch your boundaries and exercise your imagination. And that probably is going to mean writing outside of your realm of knowledge. We’re not looking for Hugo level results. Heck, make stuff up. (A UFO caused the pileup on the snowy highway in Texas.)
Sometimes you have to just write for writing’s sake.