Friday, January 20, 2012

Open the Flood Gates

Each semester, students ask me about writer's block and how to get past it. And I always tell them there's no "magic trick," no pill they can swallow that will release those creative juices. Instead, I've found a few things that open up the floodgates of creativity (most of the time):

1) Open yourself to the process. That sounds more "new age-y" than it really is, but I find that if I force myself to think about the novel (assuming the writer's block is happening in the middle of a work), my mind goes there. To the work. To the characters. To that world I've created. I'm "there" again, because I've made a conscious decision to place myself there. And suddenly, new ideas begin to form....

2) Read something you've written. When I'm having trouble jump-starting my writing, I like to open up a document--whether it's something I'm currently working on, or something I've written in the past--in order to reconnect with my own style, my own voice. It takes the pressure off of the "writing" aspect when I allow myself just to start reading. I'm always amazed how this act can spur me on to want to create something new (or add to something old).

3) Make yourself write. Sometimes, that old Nike adage, "Just Do It" is the best thing for writer's block. Tackle it. Jump on it. Pin it down. Conquer it. Just write. Even if it's not great. Even if it's not your personal best. At least it's something. And that counts for something.

4) When creativity hits, even in whispers, LISTEN to it. Tonight, I had a creative seed of an idea. But I was tired, after a long day of meetings and errands. I could've easily dismissed that seed, let it die out on its own, tried to pick it back up later. But I chose to listen. I chose to let it flourish. The seed was actually a big one, an ambitious one: taking an old work and changing the main character. Entirely. I'm talking, a total re-vamp -- new name, new physical appearance, new identity, new personality. Because I like the story well enough, but have always felt the main character wasn't identifiable, wasn't special. Wasn't as flawed or as insecure or as likable as I've wanted her to be. So tonight, when I paid attention to the seed, entertained that idea of creating such a major change, something happened. The flood gates opened, and idea after idea after idea tumbled through, so quickly that I had a difficult time typing them down fast enough.

And it was the best feeling in the world.

So, in the end, as excruciating as writer's block can be, it's worth it to hang in there, be patient with yourself, and push through it with all your might. Because the end result can be nothing short of exhilarating.

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