Unblock Thyself

Absolute Blank

By Lisa Olson (Boots)

Writers are emotional. In fact, we strive to put that emotion into words and transmit our feelings to others. We do it as often as possible and we love doing it. It is our sacrifice for our art and we pay the price with each carefully constructed phrase and each coyly placed period.

But every emotional well sometimes runs dry. Like a drought, we feel our strength is sapped and our will to carry on and through is gone. We have given and given and now we feel have nothing left to give.

Perhaps it was nothing more than a bump in our story. We can’t think beyond the character’s next move or we can’t see beyond the poem’s next line. We can no longer see the finish line and we’ve lost our way.

Perhaps it was a rough critique. We bled on the pages, and they were torn to shreds by uncaring claws of the jealous and the snobbish. Our readers misunderstood what we were trying to tell them.

Perhaps it was the real world intruding into our creative world. Cries from our children, our spouses, our parents, and our siblings: they all need attention and they need it right now. They demand the writing be set aside in favor of them; that the bond you have to a piece of paper is nothing compared to your love for them.

We know we must move past these obstacles, but we can’t find a way. Here are a few ideas that might just help you push past your emotional block and get you back to the work you love.

Story problems can be overcome. It doesn’t seem like it right now, but they can be. Set the work aside and work on something else. Try writing something fun, something without real ‘meaning’. Take a writing class. Write in a new setting. Write every possible outcome for the situation your work is stuck in, choose one, and move on. Believe you can do it, and you can.

Critiques are meant to help. Read them a once, then set it aside for a few days to think about it. Read it again and analyze it. Did the critique mean to harm, or to help? Which parts do you agree with? Which do you not? Discard what you can’t use, accept what you can, and adjust the work accordingly. Chances are it wasn’t as mean as it originally sounded; someone was just trying to help.

Real world issues are a lot harder to deal with. Find a good friend and pour out all your woes and maybe even have a nice cry. Write in a journal or diary and shed your emotional trials. Talk to your family and friends and be honest about the importance of your writing and ask for compromises and find solutions. Be true to yourself and to your writing, and find a way to work through it.

If nothing seems to be working, try riding the wave. If you feel sad, play depressing or wistful music for a few days and just sit and stare at the walls. If you feel uninspired, read a book or two or three. If you feel stupid, watch insipid programs on television, like game shows or soap operas, until all hours of the night. If you feel drained, take a day trip or an outing.

When you feel up to it, open your work. Heck, open it when you feel like you never want to see it again. You might find it the most interesting thing you’ve seen in days. Perhaps something you saw or did sparked an idea you didn’t know was there. Perhaps the solution to the problem presented itself. Perhaps you gave up finding the perfect phrase and found instead the phrase that worked.

There is no shame in taking a break from writing. Just remember to come back.

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