How many times have you fallen asleep staring at a blank page or been hypnotized by a flashing cursor on an empty screen and thought, “I don’t know what to write about”? How often have you sat down at your desk, absolutely determined to write a piece of genius, only to have that genius get stuck somewhere between your brain and your arm?
Good news: That is O.K.
You do not have some sort of writer’s dysfunction (i.e. ‘writer’s block’). You are not failing at your craft.
You are simply at a different stage in the process. You’re at the get-off-your-butt-and-meet-your-muse stage. It happens to every good writer, and that’s why every good writer incorporates this into their regular routine.
American author Anais Nin has said, “My ideas usually come not at my desk writing, but in the midst of living” (Something to jot down on a Post-It and stick on the edge of your monitor.)
What does that mean to you? To me that means stepping awaaaaaaay from the computer. It means a brisk walk in silence. It means getting into bed before my husband so I can have a dark room to myself in which to breathe. It means countless things to me and just as many to you, though what’s on my list may not be what’s on your list. (But I did get 52 ideas down in Tuesday Tasks: 52 Activities Designed for an Entire Year of Creativity that is sure to get you on the right track.)
I know the pressure of wanting to write something amazing. I did hang up my license in speech-language pathology after several gruelling years of university training and 6 years of practice to pursue this love affair. I know I have things to say that will spur change in me, in you, and in the world. And I know you have your story, too. If you’ve ever had big, fat tears roll down your cheeks on a journey to WhoAmIKidding-ville, know that I have as well.
Here’s what I learned this summer: when the computer makes you feel nauseous, don’t turn it on. And in doing so, don’t bemoan the fact that you’re not writing. Go ahead and keep living, or live a little more as the case may be, and find inspiration in this little thing we call Life.
Because here’s the thing: if you don’t experience every juicy detail – the smells, the sounds, the conversation bits, the emotions – you can’t re-create the image on paper for your reader.
Sometimes you just have to take a day at the beach and fly a kite for the first time to really know what it feels like at the end of the string, feeling the tugs and dips of the kite and your heart. The experience may remind you of a time passed, or have you dreaming about future possibilities.
In any case, it’s so much better than wishing you were at another stage in your writing, when this stage – this here, this now – is ready for you to embrace.
So the next time you find yourself pulling your hair out about ‘writer’s block’, just remember, not every stage of a masterpiece involves writing – a fair dose of it is living.