Monthly Archives: November 2008

Breaking Through Writer’s Block

I’m not going to pretend to know all there is to know about writer’s block. It’s a subject like most others: there’s always more to it than meets the eye and it generally varies from person to person. That said, I can only tell you what’s worked for me and others in ‘my circle’ to alleviate – or at the very least minimize – the often frustrating tendency.


For me, writer’s block can come at different times in my life. For instance, when my Father died I didn’t want to write anything for several weeks. It just seemed wrong to “dive back into the pool” as if a great man hadn’t just met his demise. I felt I owed it to him and to myself to savor the memories of him – and some of those memories were just too precious to even record on paper. For the most part though I didn’t want to write; I had no desire. And that was that.


Eventually I forced myself to write something – anything – just to get back into the groove. I eventually wrote one or two short diddies about Popi (like these:– and, but nothing really all that “deep.” Those things will remain between just him and me.


Then there’s the writer’s block that comes with ambient disturbances. For instance, I have neighbors that live above me. Directly above me. Loudly! I like them as human beings, but as neighbors go they are lousy people. (I’m so conflicted.) Anyway, to minimize my writer’s block in this instance I changed my whole office setting around. Now I can close my French doors and have a little less noise and actually get some work done.


But I (and I think most people) have writer’s block simply because of being unprepared. Truth is if you put your mind to it there’s always something to write about. You may have to tweak it here and there, or “borrow” from someone else, but there’s always something to put down on paper. I’m not even so sure writer’s block is a bad thing, it’s just so inconvenient. Because writer’s block always seems to come at a bad time – usually when that client is waiting by the phone for that last-minute revision, or on that new project that I fought so hard to get and yet just can’t seem to grasp hold of.


So I jotted down a few methods that have helped me overcome the dilemma. Why not give them a try the next time you’re faced with writer’s block? You’ve got nothing to lose and a whole batch of writing assignments to gain.


1) Always be prepared: Keep a pen and paper handy, or even a recorder. On several occasions I actually sabotaged my own career by not having something to write with, something to write on, etc. I mistakenly thought I could depend on my overworked, overwrought, overused brain cells to keep that perfect thought in my head until I drove two miles home – by way of shopping for groceries – through torrential storms, settled into my pajamas, and sat down at my laptop to pound out that perfect phrase. Who was I kidding?


2) Jot (or record) anything you hear that might pique your interest. Now. Whether you’re walking through the supermarket, or standing in line at the bank, you’re going to hear something: a statement, a poem, a single word, an expression – be prepared to jot it down to build upon later. And jot it down right now. Keep in mind that it doesn’t even have to make sense; it’s only going to be used as a starting point.


Sometimes as writers I think we feel we have to say it all, impress people with our rhetoric, or create something from nothing, when the opposite can be as effective. Our inspiration often comes from what we’ve heard elsewhere. So if someone blurts out a phrase, or word, or anything that you just MIGHT be able to use to get some writing going – use it. This is not to encourage plagiarism, but to be used as a starting point. Grow from there.


3) Check out your surroundings. Really notice them – and make your words “pop.” What color is the bug on your patio, and what kind of insect is it? Is the flower red, or is it crimson? Was the old tire worn or was the newness obvious because of the ½ inch tread? Was her hair dyed blonde, or strawberry blonde? Was the blazer pink or was it fushia? Did you hear a loud thud or an alarming crash? Did the wooded chest smell of aged oak or was the aroma similar to a fresh pine? Did he walk along the beach, or did he limp as he casually strolled next to the calm, still waters of the ocean? If you truly pay attention to smaller details, and put those details in writing, you’re bound to build on your story and make the entire piece more interesting to read. That alone will help to beat the writer’s block blues.


4) Just write. Sounds simple, but sometimes simple works. Sometimes I start typing out any ol’ thing that pops in my head. It could be something like, “and he said to her, ‘Don’t just stand over the body! Cover it over with a paper towel!’” – or even, “The baby ran down the street carrying a halibut, wearing only a checkerboard, while the tadpole flapped in the breeze and the carburetor sang Joy to the World,” – which of course makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but it works. The point is to get the words – any words – on paper and build on something.


I once heard a discourse that was so mesmerizing that I started writing a poem with the same four words that was the title of the talk. It took several hours of tweaking, changing the entire meaning of the story, altering characters, etc., but in the end it was just so right. I loved it and so did others who read it. Of course, what I ended up writing I would have never come up with on my own. Had it not been for the title of the discourse I wouldn’t have created that piece of poetry in the first place. It was merely “borrowed” to give me a starting point.


Another time I made an inspirational piece out of something that happened in a dream. The dream wasn’t a big deal at all, but what I was able to recall gave me the inspiration to create one of my favorite pieces.


So here’s the thing: writer’s block will happen, but it doesn’t have to defeat you. Fight back with a few simple methods by (1) always being prepared with a pen and paper, or recorder; (2) jotting down anything that you can build upon later; (3) noticing your surroundings; and above all (4) putting it all down in writing.


Those are my recommendations and I’m sticking to them.


‘Til next time.


I’m Juice, and I’m signing off.