Whether you are contemplating a novel or trying to figure out a catchy slogan, we all get blocked creatively. If we didn’t, there wouldn’t be a multi-million dollar market for the hundreds of books on writers block.
I had an advertising professor at UC Berkeley who once gave us some often-repeated advice on what to do if we were creatively blocked. Take a shower. Not that the act of cleaning necessarily stimulates the creative neurons, it’s just that changing your situation, doing another activity, frees your mind and by freeing the mind, you give yourself some distance from whatever is blocking you.
I have plans to write today, but I have a sore tooth from a temporary crown that popped off, and my trigger thumb is not yet healed from a steroid shot the doctor gave me this week (who says that writers and athletes have nothing in common. We both have injuries from our careers that require steroids.) To say that I’m not inspired to write is an understatement. Give me a few more shots of coffee and that may change, in the meantime, here are some things I’m going to consider doing in order to stimulate my creativity on this partly-cloud day:
We all have our muses, and I have several; these two great writers are among them. All I have to do to get inspired to write is read “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” or “Why I live at the P.O.” Jesus, sometimes when I’m reading these writers, I think, “Why bother, who can do it as well as they did?” Imagine if they had applied that wonderful creativity and skill at nailing the truth in the marketing world. It would be a different field.
2) Take some photos.
Many artists have more than one talent. Look at all the musicians who are also painters or photographers. I find that when I want to write, I sometimes need to articulate what I’m feeling through a visual means. A shot of a tree’s shadow may express a sense of alienation, or a red flower caught in the sunlight might mirror an unnamed joy bubbling beneath my skin. After an hour of shooting, I can put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and the words start to flow.
3) Do what Natalie would do. Natalie Goldberg, that is. “Writing Down the Bones” is one of my bibles. I reread it at least once a year. Here’s a great writer and teacher who has made a career out of overcoming creative blocks. By the way, everything I just suggested above is something she has suggested, so big surprise, I have not written anything original, other than to put it in my own words, which I think will therefore enable her to forgive me. Natalie is a proponent of writing exercises. One of my favorites is writing about a “first.” The first time you saw a car wreck, or snow, or got kissed. Any first. The idea is that it gets you focused on a topic, and from there, see where you mind leads you.
4) Listen to Bruce Springsteen.
No, do not listen to REM, or U2, or anyone else. Listen to Bruce. If you are a not a fan, well, I just don’t understand that, but what I’m getting at is this artist is a storyteller and he puts it to music more affectively than anyone I have ever heard. He does it with heart and soul and chords and beats. Listen to the words from any song on “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” and try to imagine the characters, what they look like, how they feel, their daily lives. Chances are their lives are vastly different from yours, but yet, the hopes and fears may be familiar. Think about the story you want to tell, then turn down the stereo and go write.
5) Talk it out. Sit down with a friend and say, “I have an idea,” then springboard your thoughts off this person. Listen to them. Their advice might be horrible, but is there any glint of brilliance or originality that you might want to consider. Think of this as creative therapy.
If none of these work for you, go to Amazon and search on Writers Block. As I said earlier, the topic has given many writers an added element to their career as counselor for those of us who get blocked. Even in the best of time, it’s easy to get distracted and find your muse or inspiration. Fortunately, there are tried and true remedies to the chronically blocked. Write on.