I’ve written about writer’s block in the past. I might even have said that I don’t really suffer from it. I suppose that might depend on the exact definition you give it.
If you define it as an inability to figure out where to go next with the story you are currently working on, then maybe I do have it. If you define it as an inability to get any kind of words onto the page, then for sure I don’t. This might be a good example of that.
Of course, “any kind of words” doesn’t always make for a good piece of literature.
I think what it all comes down to is inspiration. If you have it, it’s golden. When you don’t, it’s … well it’s any number of things, most of them depressing.
You might think that the trick is to find your inspiration. The truth is that it’s all around you all of the time. The bitter truth is that sometimes you are not in a mental place that will allow you to see it. Or to let it in.
Maybe you are disillusioned with what you have been working on for the last few months. Maybe you have come to think that it’s no good and that no one will ever want to read it. In that case, inspiration could be staring you right in the face and you’ll never notice.
Or maybe you are depressed for some reason. An expected check did not come in the mail. Someone you thought was a good friend doesn’t really understand you. The raise you asked for at work was denied. Being depressed is like having tunnel vision. It’s hard to see anything but the depression.
There is this idea that has been knocking around the collective consciousness for a very long time. It goes like this: all great artists, no matter the medium, are depressed and do their best work in that state. I say that’s poppycock. I’d use a stronger word but I’m not really made that way. At least not as far as my writing goes. My feeling is that when you feel like doo-doo, you produce doo-doo.
So what do you do when you are having trouble finding your inspiration? First off, don’t worry about it. That will just make it worse.
My solution? Do something else. Anything. Doesn’t matter what. But don’t say to yourself, “I can’t think about (fill in the blank), I have to think about something else.” Because then all you’ll do is think about why you aren’t thinking about what you shouldn’t be thinking about. It’s the “why” that’s important in that last sentence. It will pull you right back around into that stuck place you want so desperately to get out of.
I’ll be out walking the dog or doing the dishes, folding clothes or cleaning the bathroom, and suddenly, it will come to me. I’ll know the next move my protagonist has to make and I’ll have a picture of how that will play out many pages down the road. I can see the scene and how the other characters will react.
But what inspired me? Was it the way that Maddie’s ears flopped around as she trotted down the road in front of me? Was it the odd way the clothes to be folded were piled up on the bed so that they looked like a dinosaur? Maybe. Or maybe not.
I think it is this. I cleared my mind. I focused on my current task. I quieted all the negative thoughts by doing something positive. And this allowed the front of my brain to hear what the back of my brain had been yelling at me for the last few hours, days or weeks.
I do truly believe that inspiration is all around us all of the time. We just have to learn to see it. And then how to let it in.
And now I have to go fold the clothes.