Turning Writer’s Block into Ruby Slippers

Ever sit in front of your computer, arched like a cat, ready to strike at the keyboard, ideas at the ready and then…they sprout wings and fly out of your head as if they have been summoned by the Wicked Witch of the West to go fight Dorothy and friends as they cross Oz on their journey to see the Wizard?

I am so there. *screams at the fleeing monkeys*

In the past couple of months, I had a brief conversation with @schmutzie on Twitter about poetry and writer’s block. She casually mentioned she did not believe in writer’s block which struck me as interesting as it is something I have struggled with from time to time – heck, all of us writers have, have we not?

Then I seriously considered her idea. Why would we willingly believe in something which only serves as a roadblock to something we so desperately want to do? By doing so, are we giving ourselves permission to daydream instead of dive into the task at hand? The only thing blocking the writer is well, the writer.

What if we refused to believe in writer’s block? Mind over matter and all that. For example, right now? I’m channeling my inner Charles Bukowski and putting his words “writing about writer’s block is better than not writing at all” into practice.

Let’s say you go into the kitchen to cook a batch of muffins. You want these muffins more than anything in the world. You preheat the oven, gather your equipment, and put all the ingredients on the counter. But you realize you are out of eggs, a very necessary ingredient. Do you give up on making the muffins? No. If you’re like me, you Google for egg substitutions or you run to the store for eggs. You mix up the recipe, accepting that while it may not be exactly right, it’s better than no muffins at all.

The same is true for writing.

Even if you sit there and write about not being able to write, it is better than not writing at all. For that matter, you could simply copy another text. The method is to get you thinking and following the patterns of language and imaginative thinking. Granted, what you are currently writing may not be the most allegorically amazing thing to ever hit the page but it is writing nonetheless.

I am currently on Day 11 of author Jeff Goins’ My 500 Words Challenge. Some days I have put the keyboard to the metal and zoomed by 500 words (like yesterday when I wrote over 1k words) and other days, I have barely managed to crank out the 500 minimum words. Right now, I am eying the word count because frankly, I would rather be doing anything other than writing. Sleep sounds good, actually.

One of the things I have really appreciated about the FB group for Jeff’s challenge is the motivation. Particularly Jeff’s motivation. He has constantly encouraged us every day through example and challenges. Just yesterday he told all of us to stop doubting ourselves – that we were indeed, enough. If I am stuck, I pop into the group and scan through some of the threads for inspiration. Sometimes it works, other times, it doesn’t.

I am noticing, however, that my brain is working differently. Instead of just experiencing things and dismissing them, the most mundane things are turning into potential pieces. In fact, my most liked post from the past week was about the dinner I cooked that evening. Until I cooked that dinner, I had no idea what I would write about that day. Then, boom.

Being a writer is not about contracts. It is not about publication. It is not about writing a perfect piece every time your fingers hit the keyboard or wrap themselves around a pen hovering over paper. Being a writer is about writing when you just don’t want to but you have a deadline to meet or a challenge to fulfill. Being a writer is about seeing everything around you as a potential story. It is about digging deeper and challenging yourself to fill in the gaps.

Tonight, and always, I am a writer. A sleepy writer, but a writer. Are you a writer?

Even though we are 11 days in, you can still join Jeff’s challenge. Go here for more information. If you decide to join, I’m going to toss in an extra challenge (which is implied in Jeff’s challenge but not explicitly stated, I dare you to say to hell with Writer’s Block and write whether you feel like it or not. Use this awesome quote as inspiration:

“Discipline allows magic. To be a writer is to be the very best of assassins. You do not sit down and write every day to force the Muse to show up. You get into the habit of writing every day so that when she shows up, you have the maximum chance of catching her, bashing her on the head, and squeezing every last drop out of that bitch.”
Lili St. Crow

Go forth and squeeze every single drop out of your Muse. Drain her dry. What you find inside may just surprise the hell out of you. Remember, according to Hemingway, ““There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

At the end of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy realizes that all she has to do is click her ruby red slippers together and say, “There’s no place like home” in order to get back to Kansas. All you have to do as a writer is click your keyboard and whisper “There’s nothing like writing” to defeat your writer’s block. (Even if it’s angry pecking and frustrated whispers or shouting). You got this, right? Good.

Now write.



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