I hope you’re doing well and looking forward to Thanksgiving (or, for my non-American friends, an especially fantastic Thursday…)!
Ben and I are getting ready to fly up to Chicago to spend the holiday with his parents, sister, brother-in-law, two little ones (Chloe and three-month-old Theo – aren’t those the cutest names ever??), and lots of wintry weather!
I’m not a fan of the bitter cold, nor the infamous Chicago winds, but as with (most) every uncomfortable experience, I’m determined to make the most of it by telling myself, “You can use this in a story!” (It’s always a bit easier to write about things like frostbite if you’ve experienced them firsthand, ha!)
This week, I’m sharing yet another weapon with which we can beat writer’s block into submission! The tip comes from Dame Hilary Mantel, an award-winning English writer with memoirs, short stories, and historical fiction novels to her name. She says:
“If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient” (emphasis mine).
I love this tip because it brings to mind this simple, yet oft-ignored fact: WE’RE ALL HUMAN!
Despite what today’s popular self-help gurus and motivational thought leaders (people seemingly obsessed with the word, “hustle!”) tell us, there comes a time in everyone’s career, and life in general, when we have to slow down, shut up shop, hang the “Gone Fishin’” sign on the door, and well, go fishin’.
Our “On” button can’t possibly be green 100 percent of the time. Just like our bodies (and let’s not forget our precious mobile devices…), our non-cybernetic, merely mortal brains need to regularly recharge in order to function properly. They need recess, field trips, and extracurricular activities, just like kids who’ve been pent up in classrooms all day.
As we’ve seen in the last four posts in this series, there are effective ways to combat writer’s block that involve taking dynamic, offensive action. But digging in our heels when creative obstacles emerge isn’t always prudent. Very often the answer lies not in fighting back, but stepping back.
To me, stepping away from my laptop when the Muse is being a brat is sort of like, to use New Testament lingo, “turning the other cheek.” Instead of retaliating and “scowling at the problem,” which is likely to further fuel my frustration and therefore enlarge the obstacle too, I smile politely, thank the story for its time, and tell it I’ll come back later when my brain is in a better mood, i.e., when it’s refreshed and ready to
[Mind drew blank. Gone for coffee. BRB.]
Okay, I’m back! My brain is refreshed and ready to complete that sentence!
You get the idea. Giving our noodles a little R&R can be all it takes to demolish our writer’s block and unleash an unstoppable torrent of creativity.
The next time your eyes start to blur, your brain begins to fog, and a million and one distractions pop into your head, stop and reflect on how much you’ve been working lately. If the answer can be summed up with “a lot,” then it’s probably a good idea to take a break and visit the metaphorical playground for an hour or two (maybe not metaphorical for some of us, and hey, that’s okay!).
I hope you’ve found this post helpful! If so, I’d love if you could pass it on to another writer you know!