That anxiety of the blank page or laptop screen ... the feeling of paralysis that creeps into our fingers when we try to tap the keys or pick up a pen ... the building sensations in our gut caused by apprehension, confusion, guilt. We know the feeling.
That's WRITER'S BLOCK. Arrgh!
We've all had it. Even writers who are prodigious with their output suffer from it now and then. So how do we beat this block, shove it aside so that we can unleash our artistic energy and scribble away in a heat of creative passion?
Whether you're blocked from continuing a work in progress, or you've sat down to just do some writing but can't get to square one, here are some things that work for me and could help you too.
1. After I've been sitting there for a while, anguished, I get up and make a cup of tea. That 'breaks the spell', gets me up and walking about. And tea is good. But I only get up to make tea. I don't go off and wander about the garden, or wash clothes, or chase the cat. I only make tea.
2. I write on a computer so, with my tea, I sit down and start writing about the weather. I'll look outside and type, 'It's a nice day. The sun is shining' and I'll just tap away describing the day.
3. Often something about the weather will trigger a memory for me. It may not be anything to do with what I want to write about but that's OK. For example, I might look out the door and see the bloom of a pink hibiscus and I remember the day my friend gave it to me; we planted it together; it was the day after my first chemotherapy treatment for cancer. I might write more about that, or continue my focus on the weather.
4. You'll find that these writings about the day outside, in real time, will take you along a meandering pathway, but that's OK, because it's all heading in a direction and has a purpose. At this point there are two options. If you're:
A. looking for something to write about, jot down these little pathways and avenues as potential story ideas - see if something attracts you and go with that, make a story;
B. wanting to continue a work in progress, consider these little journeys as a warm-up, a flexing of the muscles before the Big Event
5. If you find nothing but dead ends with the weather, the day, the little side trips down memory avenues and you're still in creative despair, turn off the computer or put away your writing pad, and take a walk. But don't forget to take your notebook with you because ideas come when we're walking. Sometimes it helps to give your walk a purpose, a goal:
A. walk up the road for coffee
B. walk to the $2 shop (if you have one close) and buy yourself a little packet of plastic dinosaurs for your writing desk
C. walk to a favourite spot where you can sit, contemplate, dream, enjoy the scenery and relax
After all of this, if you're still blocked, maybe it's best to just hang up the tools for the day. Be sure to make a date with yourself for the next writing session, and honour it, otherwise you can end up feeling defeated and low about your writing.
Pssst .... your Mum probably told you there'd be days like this, and that it's OK to try again another time.
July was always a special month in our family because Mom and I both have birthdays.
Mom passed away in 2010 and today, 1 July, she would have been 90. My birthday is rolling along in a couple of weeks.
The seventh month of the year was always eagerly anticipated by Mom and I because it gave us the opportunity to have a double hoolie, a good old knees-up that only the celebration of two fabulous birthdays at once could bring. Mom would say, 'Let's get the girls over' and that meant gathering our friends for an evening of frivolity.
For her 80th she wanted all of my closest friends to come to the house and have pizza and champagne. The women who came had, in our youthful days, spent many weekends at our house, always welcome, sleeping over, as close as family. Mom had fed them, patched up scraped knees, played games with us, and seen all of us grow from gangly kids to moody adolescents, into young women and beyond. It gave her enormous pleasure to see these women who had become successful in their chosen fields and their lives, to share stories and adventures, and to clink champagne glasses with them, many times over.
On her 80th she prepared ahead of time and had little treasures to give to each. My oldest friend whom I'd known since we were 9 years old, received a special quilt Mom had made, completely stitched by hand. Others were given small trinkets or little antique pieces that had meaning for them, and for Mom. Everyone went away that night with a small memento and many warm memories of the years we had all been together.
Mom went into full time care three years later but she still loved parties. Even though she was in a private hospital, she made it quite clear what she wanted for her 83rd birthday celebration.
'Chocolate cake, champagne, and a belly dancer.'
Fortunately we could provide all three. The cake was easy, the champagne traveled well in its frosty ice bucket, and the belly dancer was yet another dear friend who brought her belly dancing outfit and music, got changed in Mom's en suite, and gave the performance of her life to Mom and several other residents and staff who heard the clamour of jingly bells and music and came to see what the heck was going on.
What a party.