Writer’s Drought

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I think that I have experienced periods of inspirational drought. I used to beat myself up about these “dry spells” I mean if I wanted to me a writer I had to write yes? Yesterday, I had one of those spells, but instead of banging my head against the designated spot on my mental wall I thought a moment. Perhaps t these times of writing are part of the process of writing?  I wrote a lot before this frustrating empty time, so perhaps what I really needed to do was replenish the well of creativity I draw on.  I admit I had been so busy a frustrated with work I hadn’t read very much. Reading other’s works often inspires ideas for me.

If you have nothing filling you have nothing to give. All creative work is an echo of the nature and work of the divine creator. As a writer you are not God you cannot create things ex nihilo (out of nothing) but you must draw on another source of inspiration. Simply put you cannot give what you don’t have. Many authors (including me) have made the mistake of trying to draw from an empty well. There is nothing there.

The flow has  many names, “the muse,” “inspiration” “the Aha moment” “the zone” you get the picture. Your source of inspiration can come from any of those echoes in your life that flow through you and come pouring forth on a page.

Writers block happens whenever there is a drought (as in my case) or a blockage to that flow. Blockage is what most “writers block self-help” books are about. That’s where you are told to play all sorts of mind games with yourself to unblock the flow of ideas. Or some take the psychological approach and have you do deep soul-searching to discover the inner problem keeping you from your writing.

An example from my writing was perfectionism. I felt that nothing I wrote could ever be “good enough” and it kept me from writing a single word down. What helped me is that I decided that everything I write is a learning process. Even if I write absolute junk it was worth it because I learned what absolute junk looks like. If I make a mistake (and this has helped me lots with my social life) I tell myself, “put it in the learning bank and collect interest on it later.” Mistakes are investments in the learning process. There is a personal cost to make them, but eventually you will see returns.

If your case is not “blockage” writers block, but “writer’s drought” no amount of coaxing will help you. You will be stymied by every approach and waste your money on many useless “how-to” writing books. Not all are useless, but if you are just buying those instead of actually writing you’ll never get anywhere. Trust me I’ve done it. You will need to just do one simple thing: STOP TRYING TO WRITE! Put down your pen now! Close your laptop! You can’t write in a drought, you can’t give out of poverty.

Have you stopped trying to write? Good.

Now what? Well that’s up to you. Think back to what has inspired you before. Was it music? Do you need a good night’s sleep? How about picking up your favorite book? Have you forgotten to eat today? How about calling a friend? Hanging out with friends? Hang out alone? (Maybe you’ve had too much activity)  What works for you? A movie or video game might help some, but for me those activities are a bit counterproductive because they don’t require active thinking on my part. Even sleeping has more active thinking than most movies. A psychological thriller or a puzzle game might help. Do whatever you need to fill your tank of inspiration so you can write again.

If it is successful you will be inspired again.  The urge to write will come and ideas come, and sometimes when you least expect them. For me it was to step back and analyze this period of writing that I had experienced so many times. Remember; give yourself a break you can’t give what you don’t have. You need to fill yourself with inspiration so that it can flow through you in your own unique voice that echoes of the majestic divine.

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Scribblings

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Have you ever had the urge to doodle in the margins of your notebook as a writer or as a simple class-note taker?  Do your notebooks hold drawings of shapes, lines, and random patterns that you are at a loss to explain to anyone else? And have you ever noticed that raw inspiration comes easier through lined notebook paper, than any version of Microsoft word? This is because of magical creatures that live in your notebook paper known as Scribblings.

  If you ever had a chance to see one it would probably look like the sum of your doodling in that particular notebook. There is usually around three Scribblings in an average seventy page notebook. In a giant five subject notebook there can be whole colonies of Scribblings all waiting with bursts of inspiration for the budding author. Scribblings are very important to any creative person’s success. It is important for every author of the notebook paper to understand the symbiotic relationship they have with Scribblings.

 It works like carbon dioxide and oxygen works for plants and humans. Scribblings get their energy from un-concentrated creativity. Those random doodles that come out of nowhere are their food. Now when digest the un-concentrated creativity they release concentrated creativity which becomes the start of poetry, essays, and poignant journal entries, or epic fictional ideas for the budding notebook author.

This is why people who never doodle find it difficult to be creative. They have starved their poor Scribblings for so long they have no energy to provide the essential creativity of the notebook paper. Whole communities of Scribblings in the five subject notebooks cab be in a sad states of famine. The poor Author finds his or her work dries up like a pen that is on its last few milliliters of ink. Feed your Scribbling and you may find your creative side coming back again. Although it may take time depending on how long it has been since your last doodle.

 However, this isn’t the only danger. Some notebook authors have a hard time saying no to demanding Scribblings and fill notebook after notebook of un-concentrated energy. This makes the scribbling fat and lazy. If overfed the Scribblings will just lie down and go to sleep. The poor notebook creator will find that after investing so much time in non-concentrated creativity they will have no ability to create the focused creativity that turns into something valuable. This author’s need to put their Scribblings on a strict diet until the weight comes off and the scribbling is returned to normal. A few papers of rigorous creating can be very healthy for an obese Scribbling.

 Do not forget the lesson of the Scribblings! A reasonable portion of undirected randomness can feed inspiration, but only a reasonable portion.

The First Rule of Writing

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It”s time to change the first rule of writing. The old “write what you know” just isn’t cutting it. It is an impossible rule to break. No one writes what they don’t know for the very simple fact that they don’t know. If I didn’t know that birds fly south for the winter you would not see me writing an article on “bird migration patterns.” Birds migrate? Why the thought never occurred to me.

Even the ones who are in violation to this rule still think they know. If they honestly thought they didn’t know it would not occur to them to write it. It would be like telling someone who only knew Spanish, “Now don’t start talking in Swedish or we’re done for!” This rule neither inhibits bad writing nor encourages good. It is useless.

 If we are only allowed to write what we know what room does that leave for creativity? Nobody tells painters “only paint what you know.” We would have a very limited Art collection if painters were not free to invent fantastic representations of reality unknown to any human at the time of their creation. Where would the Sistine chapel be is someone has insisted that Michelangelo “know” what God looked like before painting Him? Think of the limitations on Actors. “Have you ever been a mass murderer? No? Well I’m sorry you can’t have the part. You can only Act what you know.”

I think a better first rule of writing would be, “Never write to write.”  Writing is a medium not an end. It is a way to communicate ideas, thoughts, and sometimes dreams. The foremost cause of writers block is to write for the sake of filling a page up with words that will somehow make sense. Any college student knows the truth of this rule.  How many college students have stared perplexed at their screens because the goal of their paper is to have X many words by this deadline. Their focus is wrong. It is not on the subject but on the writing which by itself is nothing,

Writing is a verb. It can only be present in the action of communicating an idea in your head to words on paper. Actors must forget that they are acting in order to act natural. Writers also must forget that they are writing. It is in the beautiful unconscious moments of inspiration that writing can really flourish. It is almost a giving up of self that allows true writing to happen. Once the self is introduced by the exposure of the medium (in this case writing) creating becomes a tedious task. Never write to write or you will end up with a blank page to nowhere.