Breaking Writer’s Block

block

What inspires a poet to write? And why do some poets throw up their arms and say, “That’s it. I’m dry. No more ideas. All written out!” when such sentiments are logically impossible?

Inspiration and ideas hew closely to mood. Thus, a lack of ideas or inspiration is often the writer’s way of not admitting he or she is feeling down and out (whether in London or Paris matters not). Writing your way out of a funk is no fun, either. It probably cannot be done through poetry or your chosen genre, but it certainly can be attempted through journaling.

Journals, like dogs, are good listeners. Also like man’s best friend, journals don’t judge. They reflect and sometimes allow us to see more clearly, especially in hindsight (a few days or weeks later) which, as everyone knows, is 20/20. The hope is, with the passage of time, the idea-deprived can reread his or her rambling from “higher ground” and not fully recognize that despondent journalist who claimed to be drier than Death Valley. This separation is a start.

After that? Read poetry. Define yourself as a reader instead of a writer, at least temporarily. Some may argue no, that reading others’ talent only emphasizes our own shortcomings, but I see the glass half-full. Often, when reading good poetry, I kid myself that certain successful lines or techniques looks easy. This gentle deception is inspiration by any other name.

Getting active is another strategy to inspire creativity. If you don’t worry about writing, but make a goal of getting out for a run, a walk, a workout, a project, some volunteering or whatever, you’ll often stumble upon ideas while doing the “opposite” of writing (just don’t tell anyone the “opposite” is actually brainstorming in sheep’s clothing).

If your feelings conspire against your muse, seek to define those feelings in a figurative way. This turns “writer’s block” against itself. Write “Not having ideas is like…” ten times on a page in the journal with a what-the-hell and nothing-to-lose attitude. In the end, it can only reward or prove harmless. Win or draw. That’s it. No lose.

Finally, I advise two tablespoons of music. Whatever it is you love to space out to, turn it on and turn it up. Music takes you to a muse-y place where nothing quite looks the same as the real side of your blues-colored universe. It’s your Alice-free Wonderland, and that’s a geographic advantage. Jotting notes to music drives moods such as regret and nostalgia and (dare I say it?) joy.

Wherever it takes you, it’s the next station up from where you stand now as a frustrated writer. Punch your ticket, then. Give your mind permission to board the musically-inspired train of thought and leave your inner judge on the platform waving a hankie. In time, as you listen to the gentle rumble of the tracks, the groove will return. You are a writer, after all. Writing’s what you do.

 

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6 thoughts on “Breaking Writer’s Block

  1. Yes, read, read, read. But sometimes you can’t. Everything looks unlikeable. I’d try not to write about not writing. Ahem, is that that what I’m doing. I went to the grocery and a person out of the blue talked to me. Got lots of ideas for what I was actually trying to do at home.. You never know how much inspiration is all around. Just comment and see what happens. There is only a small chance you will get your nose broken, but it will be a story. Get outside if you can.

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  2. You were right on for me. I’ve at least learned not to beat myself up for a block. That only makes it worse. I recently was out-of-order for about a month over the excitement of a new book. I was relieved when another writer told me she was having that same problem, so I think it was a combination of euphoria and having to switch to marketing mode. I do find reading the best answer or looking at art, since I write a lot of ekphrastic poems. alariepoet.com

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    • Yes, when a book comes out, you act like you “owe yourself” a month or six off from writing. The good news is, living is writing, so anything you see, taste, hear, smell, or touch while NOT writing is writing material. All you need do is track it. That’s all (he says).

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  3. Ken, all good ideas. For me, reading in a genre that ain’t poetry helps the most. A good novel, a six-pack of good beer, a kitty purring around my neck, and I can just relax and enjoy being poetically dry for a spell. And who says you have to be writing? What is this, a factory job you have to go to every day?
    I’ve had dry spells of a month; I consider them a vacation and a time to re-fuel. I also go back and revise old poems I’m not pleased with. If successful, I feel as thrilled as if I’d just written a brand new one.

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    • Who says you have to write, indeed? I think cures for writer’s block are often as individual as our personalities. The worry about not writing is it becomes a permanent habit for some. Then they become professional talk-about-writing people, God save us.

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