Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Writers Block. Writing Building Blocks.

During the period of time before a new class begins – like now, while prepping for my creative writing boot camp next week -- I notice that prospective students often ask if we are going to address "writers block".


This, I say, is what every writer addresses each time a keyboard is opened, a pen is uncapped. I don't mean to be flippant and say there is no such thing as writers block (though at times I do believe that), and I also don't mean to suggest that every writer feels this way about the writing process (thought many days, I do).

What I want to get across is that frustration, not knowing precisely what one wants to write, wrestling with first (or 31st) drafts, feeling lost in the text, unsure of an entry point, struggling to choose a meaningful topic, and facing down the this-needs-to-be-completely-rewritten-and-I-don't-feel-like-it monster, are all normal and probably in some way, necessary components to writing.

On the other hand, sometimes a writer who feels blocked needs to channel the not-writing-but-I-should-be-writing energy, and sometimes, simply moving the pen or cursor helps. Many writers have discovered that writing around their topic and/or writing something that doesn't necessarily feel or look like WRITING, also helps.

Here's what I mean. Instead of forcing oneself to write that essay, story, poem, article, chapter, memoir piece, or other prose entity that's giving you trouble, try writing in and around your topic, via some other form of communication, either about a character or narrator, or that is in some other way connected to the story, such as a:

• letter
• memo
• shopping list
• recipe
• report card
• email
• news account
• song lyrics
• margin notes to as-yet-unwritten text
• footnotes
• angry / appreciative response to the "finished" piece from a reader
• review
• application
• repair-person's recommendation
• police report
• resume
• evaluation
• cease & desist order
• list of complaints
• list of compliments

One could also, I suppose, write out all the reasons why one is not writing. If the pen is moving, or the fingers are dancing across the keys, at least part of the process is thus unblocked. And who knows, from this not-writing kind of writing, could emerge perfectly usable writing building blocks.

1 comment:

elizabeth searle said...

Hi Lisa--
I like your 'list' approach here--
a favorite exercise of mine to stir up writing energies (originated by writer Melanie Rae Thon) is to write
"I remember" and then freewrite whatever comes to mind and when one thread runs out, write 'I remember' again and continue on for 3 minutes.
Surprising what this stirs up!
Write on, Lisa--