Just last night I was joking with a friend about how all us writerly types are actually miserable bastards. When we’re blocked, we moan and whine and bitch like nobody’s business. And when we’re unblocked, we’re hunched over a desk and heaven save anyone who interrupts us mid-sentence.
I don’t know about you, but I was blocked for the longest time. Maybe it was because I’d spent too much time trying to pay the bills and forgot to pay attention to the fact that I wasn’t getting any quality writing done. Or maybe I just got stuck in a rut. Whatever it was, I’m un-blocked now, and boy it’s a relief.
Here are some things that pushed me towards getting un-blocked —
1. Really pushy friends:
So all of us have those, right? I have this friend, she’s a dance movement therapist and a darn good one at that. Goes to work every morning, has a planner and everything. She’s stable, she’s functional, and she’s doing some amazing work. One of the people she’s helping is me, by being really patient and supportive. The last time I was hunched over a desk (NOT typing furiously), and complaining about not being able to write, she simply said — “I’m giving you five days to pitch an idea to this magazine.”
Within a day, I thought of a few ideas. Within a couple of days, I had a pitch ready. A day later, my editor approved it. And just like that, I was thinking up many more ideas and crafting more and more pitches to go with them.
Of course, some of my other friends are less gentle. The one I’m talking about now is a writer himself. Told you they’re all miserable bastards, right? Now, he tells me I have a week to send this major publication either a poem or a short story, and that he’d send one on the same day. When I say major, think MAJOR. Like, there’s no way in hell they’re going to be interested in some girl who aspires to write but mostly complains about it and lives halfway round the world. I protested and laughed like a hyena, but my friend wouldn’t take no for an answer.
The great thing? I started writing! I am on the road to being rejected by one of the biggest and best publications ever, but who knows, maybe one day, I’ll really get published there. By giving me a ridiculous goal, my friend pushed me to explore my limitless possibilities as a writer. And hell, that’s why I got into this whole thing in the first place, right?
2. A really pushy Mom:
Don’t believe me? Your family can really push you to do things you normally wouldn’t do. Like drive a zillion miles to the train station to pick up relatives you didn’t know you had. Like sitting through extended family dinner with a smile that is actually clenched teeth on display. Like bad-soggy mother’s day poetry.
Tell her you’re blocked. And ask her to sweet-talk/nag/daily-remind you into starting. Just one sentence, just one idea, even if it’s going nowhere. Mothers are persistent creatures. You should know, they put up with you while you were growing up. Especially you, that goth one.
3. Just One Sentence:
Down a glass of wine or whatever, and just grab a pen and scribble something, anything. The hardest thing is to get started. Once you get started, you will likely be on a roll. You’ll scribble on anything that resembles paper: leaves, napkins, tissues, a white t-shirt, a wall. The ideas will rain like frogs on a really tropical (or Fortean) evening. Well, maybe not, but you never know! For me, at least, the hardest thing is to get off my behind and get started. After that I pretty much have to slow down and remember to go out for some groceries or for class.
I know that I’m un-blocked when I’m doing more than just making lists of all the editors and publications that could be publishing me every second I sit and complain about being blocked. I know I’m really raring when I need to make a list of possible ideas that I can’t wait to get started on. But the best part doesn’t involve any lists or anxiety at all, because the best part about writing is that every second you’re doing anything is potential material, and potential food for thought, and sometimes it’s okay to be blocked for a while.