What Works for You?

Wednesday, February 02, 2011
There were times when I was earning my graduate degree that I felt I couldn't open the novel I needed to read. Had to read. I must read to finish the assignment. I just couldn't do it. A deadline for a creative piece approached, based on the reading I refused to do and panic would set in.
I needed to read that book, but I couldn't.
I was with a friend yesterday who needs to focus on his fiction writing, but he wanted to buy a nonfiction book. He re-shelved the book, deciding he needed to read fiction to write fiction. So, it seems counter-intuitive, but when I need to focus on fiction, I told him, I try to relax and fill the bath, then I dive into a piece of nonfiction--a long magazine article from Vanity Fair or New Yorker or a short book. After finishing the nonfiction, my brain allowed me to pick up the novel and read through. I find then that I'm more engaged in the task at hand and more focused on what I need to do. The writer's craft jumps out at me, more crisp than if I had tried to slog through it.
Now, when I get stuck (whether it's writing or reading), I try to do the opposite of what I'm supposed to be doing.
Hard piece of writing I can't figure how to get into? I'll pick up my 3-year-old's picture books.
Fictional writing called for and I'm blocked? Dive into a juicy magazine expose.
Needing to sit and churn out an assignment? I'll take a brisk walk.
Do I need to brainstorm? I pick up a pen and doodle.
After I do these other elements, it's as if I've used a key to open the other side of my brain that had remained off-limits. To move through those blahs we often run across, we need to figure out the tricks that work for us.
What are some of the blocks you run across and how do you deal with them?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a creativity coach, writer and editor. She lives in Wilmington, N.C.


Barbara Barth said...

I flip through decorating magazines or hit antique shops to relax and get my juices flowing to write. Looking at all the beautiful things triggers something in my brain that gets my creativity flowing. I was an antique dealer before I started writing two years ago. Now I have come back full circle and opened an antique shop, but it is also a writer's guild. I have my first book signing this Saturday, with a Steampunk author and an artist opening in the shop now. Helping other artists think how to do their craft gives me tons of inspiration to write. The bottom line, you don't need to open a shop to figure out a writer's block, but I do think getting out and listening to other artists has a way of opening up that block.

Barb Hodges said...

I read a Psalm. It tends to calm my brain and I then have the creative juices and desire to try again. Thanks for sharing what helps you.

Brenda said...

I listen to music, and take a lyric from a song and start from there.. I hadn't thought of picking the opposite of what I was trying to do, intriguing. I've observed each writer's bag of tricks is a unique as their voice.

Betty Craker Henderson said...

I'm great at procrastinating but once I sit down to work on a project I don't usually have any trouble. My biggest trouble is simply not wanting to get started!It's amazing how many things you can find to do before you begin.

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