Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Block Writer's Block

Something I rarely suffer from: writer’s block. Ask those close to me—I’m just not often at a loss for something to say. I’m an introvert, so I need my alone-power-up time, but I’m also one of the first men out in a game of Quiet Mouse.

As a writer and writing professor, I’ve come up with a couple of tips to help anyone suffering from this ailment. They all boil down to this important point—remember, writing is a relationship between you and your craft. That means a couple of things.

1)   Don’t ignore your craft. She’ll grow angry and resentful. Spend time with her, at least a little, at least five times a week. Even if it’s a well-written Post-It (because I’m pretty sure that’s what William Carlos Williams’s famous poem entitled “This is Just to Say”* originally was), spend time together.

2)   If she seems allusive, set the mood. Maybe light a candle? Perhaps you should rub some lavender massage gel on your keyboard?** She cannot be expected to work in a tense environment. Help her relax before you bombard her with the sound of ticki-ticki-tacking.

3)   Learn her needs, and meet them.
a.     Is she a morning person? A night owl?  Work where she prefers.***
b.     In what kind of environment does she flourish? Take her out on dates to the local coffee shop or a park. Spend a quiet evening at home. You might be surprised where the two of you get along best.

4)   Study her! Books about her abound.****

5)   Play with her! She’s not all five-paragraph essays. She’s a sonnet, a short story, a blog entry—she’s complex and has many facets. She has punctuation, sentence structure, paragraph…she’s a constant challenge, and you should both respect and delight in her for it.

6)   When writing isn’t easy, be easy on your writing. Say, “It’s okay.” Spend a little time apart, but not for too long. Your craft needs you. You need her. No matter how frustrated she sometimes makes you, you keep coming back because you know her value as a friend in your life. She listens no matter what you say—and she instantly forgets your stupidity or mistakes with simple taps of the delete button. It’s worth it. Keep writing!

*“This is Just to Say”

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

(I kid you not—that’s the entire poem.)                                                                

**Computer gurus everywhere suggest you do not rub oil onto your keyboard. However, computer salesmen awaiting the commission from your upcoming purchase say, “Go for it!”

***If she is a morning person, and you are a night owl, or vice versa—Publix brand coffee is tasty and not too expensive.

****Two of my favorites are Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and Zinsser’s On Writing Well.

*****This Underwood typewriter was a gift from my dad, sitting on my desk one day with the below note on it. I used my tongue to take the picture of my hands on the keys.

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friday favorite things | finding joy


  1. "I used my tongue to take the picture of my hands on the keys."

    I am both impressed by your ingenuity, and a little icked out. lol

    1. You have to do what it takes to get the shot, right? Don't worry--my phone survived.

  2. I really appreciate these tips! I've been struggling with writers block for awhile. I feel as though I have a million words to say, but getting them on paper is IMPOSSIBLE! I'll be trying these tips!

    1. Keep writing, and explore the different places to write that might be more inspiring for you. I've been doing that lately. And see how you write best--do you need to outline before or just sit and start typing? Everyone is different.