I firmly believe a good metaphor can change your life. And for me, a good metaphor changed how I approached writer’s block.
Years ago, at a writing conference in a quaint Pennsylvania hotel, a famous YA author suggested that writers are pitchers of water. We eternally pour out creativity through our stories, and when our pitchers are empty that’s when the dreaded Writer’s Block steps in. (I am intentionally capitalizing here because I don’t just see writer’s block as a thing. I see it as THE villain in any writer’s life, worse than self-doubt or Netflix.)
The author proposed that when our pitchers run empty, we must stop writing and refill that pitcher. We vanquish Writer’s Block by actively seeking inspiration or else the villain of the story wins and our pages stay blank. Below is not an exhaustive list but instead a personal one that I keep handy to help me.
Go to a gallery – Visual art is a quick inspiration snack for me. Galleries are the best, but even if I only have five minutes and pull something up on my phone, it’s an immediate infusion of color and texture and narrative. Online, I highly recommend skimming winners from National Geographic photography contests. They are breathtaking.
Make emotional playlists – Consider not just a writing playlist but instead find those songs that put you in the mindsets you need. Is a character ready to break? Make a chaos mix. Need the sexiest scene ever? Make a love groove playlist. Army going to war and you need to rage? Perhaps a Game of Thrones mix, but you get the idea. Have them ready for an immersive infusion of inspiration.
People watch – I’d love to say I’m an outdoor gal, but I’m not. However if I could get away with it, I would don full bird-watching gear and head to Target with binoculars. Don’t stalk. Don’t be creepy. Just look at the expressions on peoples’ faces. A wrist overloaded with bracelets. A man who rubs the spot a wedding ring should be. There are a thousand stories waiting for you anywhere you go.
Read, of course – Reading is a mixed bag when Writers Block droops its ugly chin on your shoulder. Sometimes a few beautiful words are enough to ignite the spark to write again. Other times, reading can be frustrating or only highlight your current situation so treat this one delicately.
Indulge in television and films – Whether it’s a familiar character you could cosplay in your sleep or a new recommendation, get lost in someone else’s world. Play the what if game. What if that character hadn’t turned left but instead turned right? Before you know it, you might just be hatching your own entire world.
Discover the news – Another cautionary one to try. Normally the news offers a million stories happening at once. Unfortunately, at the moment the political situation is strangling everyone. But perhaps if you can filter out all of the national conflict and look at the local news, that barn you drove by your entire life just burned down or a man wins the lottery at ninety. Regardless, life does imitate art and art is always allowed to imitate the kaleidoscope of life surrounding us.
Seek human contact – Listen. Call a friend and let them talk with nothing to contribute. Call Aunt Betty who lives in a yurt along the Susquehanna River and ask her to tell you about her day. We live in a technologically advanced world where we are both connected to everyone and tied to no one simultaneously. Or if you are limited to technology, start up a real conversation with a new Twitter friend. The devil’s in the details, and unless we listen closely, we often miss those brilliant kernels that could be our next novel.
Write it all down – Carry a notebook with you and have a book of inspiration ready. If you’re anything like me those pesky ideas happen when I’m in the shower, at the dentist, cooking dinner, teaching my classes, hoovering the living room, you get the picture. Few of us have the luxury of stopping to write whenever we want, but that doesn’t mean we should ever let a great idea go. Write it all down! (Dictating notes in your phone counts, too.)
Writer’s Block may be the villain of our story, but as writers we’ll win. I guarantee it. Inspiration will hold us up as we put pen back to paper – or fingers to keyboard, or what the heck, quill to scroll. Good luck with your writing journey and thank you for taking a few moments to share mine.
A mother, teacher, and writer who enjoys all good stories and believes in the magic we can make every day by telling them.