|obligatory cheesy stock photo….ha, like people still use pen and paper|
I just can’t do it.
There is nothing to come out of me. The experiences that I drew inspiration from have been over-talked, over-analyzed and are simply dried up.
I don’t dream of Los Angeles anymore. I don’t lament in my twenty-something confusion anymore.
I simply live a normal and happy life in Austin, Texas.
This should be something that one can take inspiration from, right? A well-adjusted, healthy, and drama-free life?
Then why do I have writer’s block?
When these sort of times occur in my life, I try to recall a number of steps that help me get out of my rut. Though simple, the exercises below are sure-fire ways to help…and I probably won’t do any of them.
1.) Travel– From the act of getting somewhere to the people and places you see along the way, traveling is always a great way to inspire creativity. Not only do I feel mentally and physically better after getting out of my daily surroundings, but words and stories start circling my head and I can’t wait to get to a computer. If you can’t take a vacation, then get the hell out of town for the weekend. Get lost. Drive to somewhere you’ve never been. Some of my favorite writing was born out of traveling- my drive from Los Angeles to Austin, road trips through West Texas & New Mexico and the Oregon Coast with my mother, and my stint in Chicago. Hell, my trip to Chicago to work for 6 weeks on a TV pilot creatively inspired me so much that I ended up quitting my job in the film business and relocating to Austin. That’s the power of travel. New places create new narratives.
2.) Read– If traveling is not doable in the foreseeable future, then take yourself to another time & place via literature is the next best thing. Not only will reading introduce to new people, places and ideas, but will help you exercise your grammar and spelling skills. I try to read often, but I don’t nearly enough. I typically find that after I read a book, even for a little bit, what I write subsequently is instantly stronger. When I read David Sedaris or Sloane Crosley, I find that my humor is better. After reading a Bret Easton Ellis book, my writing is stark, symbolic, and romantic. There is a reason why literacy is important and we should all be better at taking time to read.
3.) Get Out of Your Comfort Zone– Like sleep overnight in a homeless shelter or drive to the Mexican border at 2AM. Though I don’t encourage you to do anything that will cost you your life, I’ve discovered that harrowing or uncomfortable moments create great storytelling. For me, renting a raw loft in the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles kept me lying awake at night in a cold sweat and to deal with my terrors I sat in bed and wrote. Though I would never make the same mistake again, mistakes are made for a reason, and more often then not that is where some of the best writing comes from. Lessons. Without experience where are you as a writer?
4.) Join a Writers’ Group– A writers’ group is a great way to stay committed, have support and a second pair of eyes. Most large cities have writers’ groups of various kinds. In Austin, you can find writers’ group listing in the back of theAustin Chronicle. Craigslist might also be a good place. My best girlfriend in LA heads a screenwriter’s group and though it sounds very strict and disciplined, it’s exactly what some writers need. I know that if I had people every week who expected something from me I might be more prone to finishing my writing goals. Not only are you expected to keep up with your own writing, but you will have to read and give feedback to others. This is a great way to compare and evaluate how others write and what they are writing. Though writing is often a solitary experience, we often forget what the support and encouragement of others can do.
5.) Eliminate fear– Fear is probably the number one reason why people don’t write. I realized that I often don’t write because I feel that I have nothing interesting to say (ex. the intro to this post) or that my writing seems sloppy or forced on a particular day. I also don’t feel strong grammatically yet or that my sentences aren’t flowy and poetic enough. Or that I’m just a hack and that everyone will eventually point out my hackness. Truth be told, some of the posts that I hated writing and thought were crap ended up being some of people’s favorites. In other words- don’t trust your own instincts. They might be wrong because of fear. Don’t let fear take over your dreams. The ones that succeed are the ones that keep trying.
What are your steps to getting rid of writer’s block?