For the month of December–with bonus posts on November 30 and January 1!–I am delighted to welcome a wonderful assortment of guest bloggers to take over the helm. Please enjoy their generous contributions to the blog this month. My own bloggery will resume January 2. I wish you and yours happiness and health this holiday season. Please note: comments are disabled until my return.
“Your unconscious can’t work when you are breathing down its neck.” Anne Lamott
A couple of weeks ago, I dreamed Deanna called and asked me what I would blog about. Really, it was more of a nightmare, because I had NOTHING. If truth be told, I still don’t.
For the past month and a half, I’ve wracked my brain for an interesting, unique topic I could be disarmingly witty about. Unfortunately, these past few weeks I’ve felt less than witty or creative. I’ve thought of and dismissed topics such as the problem with book reviews (potentially too controversial), the age of ideas (too ironic), recap of my 100 book reading challenge (too boring), researching historical fiction (Deanna’s already written about it), four things I’ve learned and one I haven’t (too stupid). My last, greatest idea came during twilight sleep last night, how writing is like dieting (a belabored metaphor if ever there was one). Then, I had another dream. Okay, a nightmare. I was in surgery but couldn’t be put under, despite the anesthesiologist’s best efforts. I sat up, and said through the gas mask, “I’m blocked! I don’t have a topic for my blog post! I can’t sleep until I find one.”
Hello, blog topic.
Writer’s block. We’ve all had it. In its depths, we can’t think of a more apt subject for a horror novel. We fret, we wonder if we will ever write another word again. We stare at the blinking cursor on a blank page, sure there isn’t another fresh idea in our mind. We have nightmares straight out of The Twilight Zone. Somehow, we all get through it. But, how?
Stop thinking about it. Once the idea I’m blocked gets embedded in my mind, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The fear I am out of ideas and words crushes whatever ideas and words may be lurking in my subconscious. I feel guilty when I do anything else because I can’t get past the block if I don’t write, can I? So I sit at the computer and stare at a blank screen. It’s only when I let go and allow myself the freedom to focus on something completely unrelated to writing that desire and inspiration return.
Drive. Or take a shower. Another variation of stop thinking about it. I get my best ideas during mindless, rote activities. Yes, it’s worrisome that driving is a mindless activity, but there you are.
Vomit words, any words, onto a page. The most important thing about these words is they will never been seen by anyone. That gives me the freedom to write without fear of judgment. Some writers journal to clear their minds. I’ve never much cared for detailing my day or innermost thoughts. My life is fantastically mundane, just the way I like it. No, to break a writer’s block, I need to do something a little spicier than, “Today, I decided to paint my walls gray.” (Though, in my defense, grey is the new neutral.) So, I write love scenes. The more graphic and so far out of my comfort zone the better. Rest assured, these are the most atrocious, cringe-inducing scenes I’ve ever written, but they pour out of my mind like cuss words from a sailor. I’m not worried about grammar, spelling or word choice. These scenes are satirical in their horribleness. Unlike this post, which is going to be read and judged by hundreds of people (be kind!), my cheesy prose will be deleted as soon as its finished. What I wrote isn’t important, but the flow of words is. The relief of creating something just for fun, no matter the quality, is enough to remind me why I love writing and inspire me to open my languishing MS and try again.
We all have tricks to break through writer’s block. What are yours?
Melissa Lenhardt is a writer living in Texas with her husband, two boys and Golden Retriever, Lucy. Visit her blog, Swamp of Boredom, to read about books, writing, the problem with book reviews, the age of ideas, her 100 book reading challenge, researching historical fiction, four things she’s learned and one she hasn’t, and how writing is like dieting.