I've been there several times.
With the notebook, heavy in your hands, blank page screaming up at you.
Cursor blinking impatiently on the screen, like a tiny tapping foot waiting for you to catch up. Waiting for you to hurry along with your map of words.
But you sit, willing that invisible spirit of inspiration to take control of your hands, begging the automatic-writing gods to perform just one more miracle,
just one more time.
The interesting thing about being a writer is that, much like bakers, surgeons, construction workers, electricians, mechanics...in order to say you are your profession, you must perform the action of that profession. Bakers bake. Surgeons perform surgery. Construction workers construct buildings and so on. Well, to be a writer, you must write and for most writers, the act of writing is inspiration based. Their words spring from a place inside. Occasionally, that place becomes blocked by outside issues. Stress, anxiety, pain, grief, etc. Writers have been combating writer's block for as long as the profession of writing has been in existence. So, how do you get around, over, under or bust through that block? Here are some great ways to keep those words flowing.
1. CHANGE OF SCENERY
If you have a set writing routine, your writing environment never changes. It's always that desk, or that window bench, or that coffee shop. And you might have written thousands, tens of thousands of words at that very spot, but it is now a place of irritation. So, take your laptop somewhere else. Carry your notebook and pencil out to the front porch. Go to that lake you've been wanting to visit, go to the mall and people-watch. Should you expect a lightning bolt of inspiration the moment you arrive at your destination? No, of course not. But, sitting in a different space can bring about change. And one idea, one sentence is better than the nothingness you've been staring at for months.
2. CHANGE THE KNOWN
Turn your writing space into a personal homage to all things beautiful. If you are a poet, hang favorite lines by Plath and Rumi. Dedicate one area to favorite images. Nature writer? Make sure you have a view of outside. Military writer? Surround yourself with history.
All of this seems like common sense but it is easy to fall into the trap of self-sabotage. A static writing environment doesn't have to exist. The act of writing is as fluid as the emotions and words that fill each page. Keep yourself open to the option of changes, both big and small.
3. STOP TRYING AND LIVE IT
Writers, for some reason, feel they must be solitude creatures. As if becoming a hermit is part of the overall mystique. That's great if you're actually writing. However, if the writing fairy hasn't visited you in months it's probably a relief to read that writing is quite lovely when explored as a communal activity.
Of course, writing and critique groups have gotten a bad rap lately for the overabundance of novice writers as facilitators. But there are great benefits to engaging in fellowship over a shared love of words. Ideas coming from different people at varying stages of life can only improve a sense of self-awareness and change the way you see not only your writing but writing as a whole.
"Gracefully take what you feel is relevant and leave the rest at the table with gratitude."
4. FORGET YOU KNOW HOW
So, for the last 36 years you've only used silver-capped No. III Graf von Faber-Castell pencils. And only writing in linen bound notebooks. You are firmly rooted in the tradition of graphite and it works. Well, it worked. The words are stuck and have been stuck for months, either in you or that ridiculously expensive pencil.
First things first...drop your habits, for now at least. Lose the pencil. Leave the linen at home. Start a new, albeit temporary, set of habits. Look for a typewriter. Or a wicked steam-punk keyboard to pull you out of that deep rut you've dug for yourself. The clicking of keys or snapping of a typewriter can call to the wandering Whitman-within. Begin with an old piece and see what happens. Does it re-write itself? Does the typewriter become a sort of portal to another world, allowing long-dead writers to come alive through your fingers? Whatever happens, it's good because it's something when you had nothing.
This is all about breaking through a wall or finding a way to see through fog.
Think outside the box. Allow yourself a chance to regroup by doing things you normally wouldn't, writing in ways you never thought of, using tools you've never tried.
Remember to be gentle with yourself and understand that everyone deals with the temporary disappearance of their muse.