After five, dreary, wordless months, I am writing again, somewhat regularly. It’s a great feeling, like starting to run again after a hiatus, except with none of the soreness. Now that the major symptoms of writer’s block have subsided, I wanted to write a bit about the experience as kind of a, “If-I-got-over-it-anyone-can.”
For anyone unfamiliar with WB, here is the basic conundrum: A writer finds him/herself unable to put fingers to keyboard, pen to paper, stylus to clay tablet. Causes could be anything from a lack of motivation, of focus, or of subjects. For a serious writer, WB can be debilitating and demoralizing. It can take weeks or months to complete a thought that, if pursued during a more fertile time, would have taken mere seconds to produce.
One of the ways I try to combat WB is to begin by writing lists. Lists are easy and fun to write. By the time you finish a list, you have a variety of words and ideas on the page. I will start just spewing out things I see, how I’m feeling, the color of the guy’s eyes across from me on the train, what I want to make for dinner. Sometimes it looks a little bit like poetry, which can be exciting! Sometimes it just turns out to be a grocery list, which, while not helpful for my writing, does ease the tension of my next trip to Trader Joe’s. Here’s an example:
A list of what writer’s block is and what it feels like:
Flipping through your Spotify account to find “that right song”
Making three new playlists in the process
Going for a walk instead
An elephant sitting on your chest
A monkey on each hand
A Sips-of-Coffee : Words-Typed ratio that is greater than 1
Fingernails that are cut too short
Searching every couch cushion for the remote
A lot of Pinterest
Hating what you’re reading, not because it’s bad but because it’s written and screw Milton for having such willpower simply to write
Shriveled up grapes
Broken pencils. A lot of them.
Too-long conversations with your local barista
WB is the equivalent of lying in bed at night unable to fall asleep. Except you can’t just pop a [insert name of favored sleeping pill here]. You can try drinking more coffee, more wine, more whiskey. You can try blasting previously inspirational playlists. You can put on your writing outfit (for me, leggings, knee socks, and a hooded sweatshirt because my peripheral vision distracts me.) But sometimes our only thoughts are bland ones, and no amount of sriracha sauce is making these eggs edible. It’s a pretty excruciating place to occupy, at least it was for me. But I honestly believe (like to believe) that all serious writers experience WB from time to time.
Sometimes we reach for the faucet and no water comes out. The well is dry, but it is filling. We must trust this, and go through the lulls as they naturally arise. It is in these weeks of of non-production that stories jump and stick to us with the static attraction of dog hair to black pants. One hair, then two, then all of a sudden we’re reaching for our lint brushes, our moleskin notebooks, our laptops.