Friday, March 14, 2014

Sculpting from the Writer's Block

Whenever I feel like I'm hitting writer's block I try to remember that a block is a vessel. A block of wood, a block of ice, a block of marble; they contain all the elements needed for the sculpture that awaits within. I just have to start chiseling at it. So it isn't that I don't have any ideas when I think I have writer's block. I'm not blocked by something. I'm just looking at the possibilities of everything and feeling overwhelmed by it.

Sometimes I just pound away at it. Chisel without thinking. Start writing more and more ideas, more and more possibilities. Like doing improv. Just keep acting out the situation on paper until you find the right one. (See also Jensen girls' great March 7th UCW blog post on "Facing Failure.")

I like to do that, but first I like to (if you'll excuse my using the incredibly popular phrase):
Let. It. Go.

For me, walking away helps.

Walking away doesn't mean that I'm not working on it, though. I recently read that the mind spends nearly 80 percent of its time reviewing experiences and creating hoped-for scenarios (both the way we wish things had happened in the past, and how we hope things will happen in the future).

So while we walk away, our subconscious is doing a great deal of work. (I wish it worked the same way with the treadmill.)

Ever notice that if you try to look at a specific spot at a distance when it's dark, that it is hard to see that spot? You have to look to the side of your desired object, and "see" it through your peripheral vision.

One of my favorite activities for taking my mind away from staring at that issue that I don't know how to fix, is reading poetry. The tight language, the exquisite imagery, that combination of brevity and beauty, does magical things to my brain. It makes walking to the mailbox become an internal iteration on the loveliness of nature. It's a mental breath of fresh air. A cleanse, as it were. Like blowing my nose. Except it's my mind. So, I guess I'm blowing my mind.

So, take a minute. Breathe deep. Take a walk. Read some poetry. Wander through a gallery. Take a few days to do other things. And then go back and just write. Anything. Write it all. Write a million versions of what could happen. Write it in the style of The Muppets, Andy Warhol, Republicans vs Democrats. Write it as a haiku. Write it as a poem written by each character. Blow it all out there.

Blow your mind.


Scott said...

Excellent post, and another endorsement for poetry as a catalyst for writing!

Yamile said...

Yes! I went through a very rough patch of writers' block. I kept writing and writing, even when most of the time it was just rambling. But I'm glad I kept writing!