I hate the phrase, “WRITER'S BLOCK”. It’s a sure-fire buzz-kill. I run into plenty of rough patches, but I’d never do a fool thing like pronounce myself a victim of “WRITER'S BLOCK” - I’m far too susceptible to suggestion. Most of my “rough patches” usually come in one of two varieties: Shy Toddler Syndrome or Wad-o-String.
Shy Toddler Syndrome has to do with elusive inspiration, and is a lot like your best friend’s irresistible three-year old. The more you want to grab that cutie and smooch up those sweet punkin cheeks, the quicker that kid will disappear behind Mama’s legs and hold tight. The more you coax, the tighter the grasp. The only solution is to ignore that cutie entirely. Get completely absorbed in something else. Go to the trunk of kid toys you keep in the corner and start pulling out stuff. Play-Doh, Lincoln Logs, bubble-blowing lawnmower - doesn’t really matter what you pick out, but it matters very much that you actually get into it, really play in earnest. Kids are natural born Fake-N-It Detectors. One whiff that you’re trying to manipulate them and you can forget it. Crayons and markers are always a good choice. Forget the coloring books, though – they cramp the artistic style. Just plain drawing paper is good– the bigger, the better. After a few minutes, that cutie will sidle on up to see why the heck you aren’t paying attention to them anymore. Just keep on drawing. After another minute or two, without saying a word, push a blank piece of paper and some crayons towards your target, but get right back to your own masterpiece. Very soon, Cutie-Pie will start jabbering a little bit and before you know it, that kid will be up in your lap, demanding to point out the meaning of every scrawl and squiggle she made when you weren’t paying any attention.
It works just as well for skittish writing inspiration. When you get frustrated because nothing’s coming, just leave it the hell alone. Get up and do something interesting. Go see a foreign flick. Go peruse your favorite junk store. Make a painting. But really immerse yourself in it. Like toddlers, inspiration can smell bullshit a mile away. If you really commit to the thing, it will begin to loosen up the creative wheels, and soon you’ll be standing in the back of the Salvation Army Thrift Store holding an old gourd, remembering how Grandpa used to always keep a gourd dipper for getting a cool drink of water, and how nicely that detail would work in that scene you’re writing about the old fellers that sit and visit all day on the porch at Alley Grocery.
I think I’ll save Wad-O-String for another day. Happy Writing.
Springboard du Jour: “In the long unfurling of his life, from tight-wound kid hustler in a wool suit riding the train out of Cheyenne to geriatric limper in this spooled out year, Mero had kicked down thoughts of the place where he began, …” from The Half-Skinned Steer, a story in Close Range Wyoming Stories, by Annie Proulx