Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Play: The Ultimate Block Dissolver

A lot of writers wonder what to do about "writer's block." Some people think there's no such thing. Others swear that it's their own personal demon, sitting on their chest like a sumo wrestler and laughing at their helplessness. "What do I do when I'm staring at a blank screen and nothing comes out?" they wail.

Well, my first piece of advice is turn off the computer. The computer is a tool for -- profanity alert! -- work!! How often do you use that four-letter word "work" when you're talking about writing? A lot, probably. You tell people that you're working on a novel, a short story, a blog, whatever. You might refer to a piece of writing as "a work of literature." And the truth is that there is a lot of work involved in writing. (Not to mention all the stuff that comes after it -- submitting, publishing, promoting, etc.) But if you're feeling blocked, then it's time to reframe the activity. Don't think of your writing as work. Think of it as play!

When you were a kid, did you ever get "play block"? No, of course not. You went outside and you made up a game. You didn't care if it was stupid or if it wouldn't satisfy the critics. You just played. You didn't even need fancy toys. A couple of sticks and you were ready to do battle. A tree became a house. Your little sister became the customer at the store where you sold snails for pebbles. There was no internal censor telling you: "No one will like this game. It's not very original. What are you thinking?"

See, that's why you get writer's block. There's a snooty little censor in your head, looking down her nose at you and telling you that you're not good, so why do you bother. Or else she's saying, everyone will hate you if you write that. Or else she's telling you that you're a bad husband, wife, mother, father or whatever because you're indulging in this selfish activity. She knows your weakness. But the censor doesn't have anything much to say if you're just playing.

So turn off your computer. Pick up a colored marker and some blank sheets of paper. Draw, color, write a ridiculous poem. Come up with the most absurd metaphors you can think of. Write a rap. Write haiku. Give yourself a prompt and write for ten minutes. For example, for the next ten minutes I will write about insects, couches, my garden -- let it be anything. Write with a friend. Trade lines of poetry. Playing gets you up on the carousel horse. Before you know it, the horse will become real and take off with you. The censor will have become bored, put her head down on her desk and be quietly snoring while you're doing what you love: writing.

1 comment:

  1. Oddly enough, the computer is my toy. I used to get most of my inspiration surfing blogs and places on the internet.

    Facebook is what's killing my urge to write *lol*