Think Outside the Block
Writer’s block, a simple two word phrase that sends chills up any writer’s spine and is enough to make them pull out multiple strands of hair or bite off all ten fingernails then look at their toes speculatively as they think, “Ah, to be young and limber again.”
Yes, it’s that bad. Even worse is when it hangs around for weeks at a time, eating away at your writing soul with every second that passes.
So, what do writers do when faced with the dreaded writer’s block? There are numerous books, blogs, and articles written about it; some good, some not so good, some merely stating the obvious. Me, I have several tricks that I use and though I hate to admit it, some are good, some are not so good, and some, well, they don’t do much but aggravate the condition.
The first time I suffered from writer’s block, I read a lot of those articles. I figured surely some author somewhere had found the cure. I even tried some of the suggestions but it was all to no avail. The block continued until I finally broke it by doing something I’d never done before; writing a flash fiction story. The idea for the story came to me as I was walking on the beach. My husband and I had just moved to Maine and while we looked for a house we were living in an apartment on Old Orchard Beach.
The flash is about a writer who’s suffering from writer’s block and in order to break through, she builds a snowman on the beach at low tide—yes, it was winter and in the winter in Maine, it even snows on the beach—then she waits for the tide to come in. When it does, the snowman is of course swept out to sea and that breaks the block for her.
In another switch from the usual, I wrote the story in first-person, made the block a tangible creature and told it from its point of view. Plus, I acted out the story, on the beach in the middle of winter with snow falling and the tide just starting to come in. While I stood out there in the cold and snow, I talked to the monster I’d created, telling it exactly what was going to happen to it and what I hoped this somewhat macabre ceremony would accomplish.
When the tide finally came in and the snow creature was washed away, I went back inside and turned on my computer. Miraculously, the block was broken and I could write again.
It worked, but would it work again? I have no idea since we don’t live on the beach anymore. In fact we recently moved back to the south so I rarely see snow these days. But I’ve always remembered that first time and the cure I found writing something completely outside my box, so to speak, and that’s what I try to do every time the dreaded writer’s block rears its ugly head; think outside the block.