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.


Whatever Wednesday: When you ask Craigslist to solve writer’s block

The next time I struggle with writer’s block, this is the approach I’m taking. Not for serious value but for beyond hilarious comedic value.

So far, responses have ranged from serious to well, not so serious. Generally those who have responded seem to genuinely want to help me. Not all in the way I asked, but still. They want to help. Which is sweet. Sort of. Unless they’re wanting to exchange pictures and be more than friends. Then it’s disturbing because it makes me wonder if they are even capable of reading English. Or thinking of anything north of their equator if you know what I mean.

Pasted below are actual initial responses (in no particular order) to the writer’s block ad I posted. Also, in all fairness, I made it CLEAR I was a blogger in search of a topic. Everything was fair play.

No, I’m not telling you what or where I posted it nor am I linking to it. Enjoy.

Happy Wednesday.

1) seriously, if it is so hard to find something to write about then perhaps you shouldn’t write anything. i blogged for years and have only posted when i felt compelled to write. if you have a deadline then that’s a different issue. it really depends on what you NEED to write. (honestly the most awesome advice of the evening. SO very true.) 

2) Well, what in the world is your blog about?  You didn’t mention any topic!  Politics? Religion? Fitness? Babies? Sex? Speaking of sex, here’s one for you from my personal life (which I probably shouldn’t be sharing):  is it common for married women to stop having sex with their husbands?

 Ok, so I gave you some type of topic to write about. (Yes, yes you have. But whoa. When you email people from Craigslist, you never know where your email will end up. Perhaps you shouldn’t email people on Craigslist to begin with, buddy. Just a thought.)


3) I could probably help or at least attempt to depending on the subject matter. I usually have spare ideas I’m not using for anything in particular

and I can be pretty decent when it comes to finding information on Google
but if that’s no help I can still be useful as a repository for obscure trivia.
like did you know attempting to sing “Be Prepared” in the lion king Jeremy Irons “threw out” his voice on the line “You wont get a sniff without me!”
and fellow cast member Jim Cummings had to fill in for him the rest of the song. (this one ended up telling me about a George Washington Shaped Chicken Nugget which sold for 8k on e-bay. When he said repository for obscure trivia? He wasn’t kidding.) 


4) So, what do you write about generally? (I’m not even going to bore you with where this went) 


5) You know, I was all gung-ho about helping you get to new ideas …

Until you mentioned psychoanalzying The Biebs and getting deep into one of his songs.
Then I realized that you already had enough genius for both of us.
But if you’d like someone to talk to while getting into that adorable boy’s mind, then I’d glady offer my services. As long as you understand why I’d go worked up over it .. I mean, come on … that hair. (this one led to a really awesome full on conversation about the Biebs, Elvis Presley, the Stones, The Beatles, confused HS kids, Shakira, and a whole bunch of other stuff. He’s awesome. Even more awesome than the Bieb’s hair.) 
6) I doubt this will even reach you because I’m sure the second you posted that ad on Craigslist, your email inbox was swarmed by dozens of guys who are a dime a dozen. I’m not one of those guys. I’m 33, HWP, South American and very down to earth. Love to cook, soccer, the outdooors. I am fun, sarcastic, caring, friendly, athletic, well-educated & mannered. I reside in the (redacted)area. Love to try new things, places, food, in this case friendships.If you read this and are interested AND you’re not a spambot, pls reply and we can go from there and exchange pics. (Umm.. okay, but Dude? I was asking for help with writing. In the Strictly Platonic section. I am NOT looking for a sexy latin ma.. oh.. wait.. HI. Just kidding. I deleted his email without responding after I copied the text here.) 

7) maybe you could write about those homeless hotspots put on by sxsw…or even how commercial sxsw has become… (legitimate ideas, granted, and something I’d noticed via Twitter this past week. But not light enough for my Wednesday post. Thanks for playing.) 

8 ) What exactly are you stuck on? (Bubble gum. Super glue. Batman? Harvey Dent….Can we trust him? Wonder-woman? That funny purple blob otherwise known as Barney? Taffy? Toe jam? Rubber Cement? Elmer’s Glue? That strange sticky stuff on the school bus seat?) 

9) Well I;ve got brain tsunamis LOL I am crative, but run into the same problem sometimes. But I like the idea of being helpful. (Oh the cringe-worthiness of this one. Explain to me what “crative” is, please. Anyone? Bueller? Also, I don’t think we’re suffering from the same thing here. I know how to spell and use proper grammar.) 

10) Yes, I would like to help you, do you use yahoo instant messenger or gchat? (maybe. but i’m already writing, also, why does your email address name show up as “tom green” when you’ve signed your name as something completely different? Be funny on your own without invoking the name of someone professionally hilarious.) 

Whatever Wednesday: Blank

There are words in my head. Lots of words. Thousands.

They dance about on tables crafted from the finest membranes in the world, flashing through the dark lit only by firing neurons. Clothed in slinky new dresses they sway the night away as they swallow copious amounts of tequila, wine, and vodka.

Then they stumble home, dark circles beneath their eyes, smeared mascara, broken heels, and the facade of happiness floats away as they climb wearily to their lofts in lower Manhattan, desperate to collapse onto feather laden beds. Covered with silky comforters, they sleep until the following evening when they arise, slip into even slinkier dresses and creep out to even swankier clubs in order to dance the night away.

I try to catch them, these words.

They disguise themselves each night in a different mask. Scatter to the wind and hide inside clubs with bouncers larger than the Titanic itself.

So I wait.


As my words dance the night away, laughing, joking, drinking, as I huddle outside in the hot humid air, parched to the core, unable to reach in and grab an expletive to express my frustration. It’s as if they’re inside some giant claw game and I am forced to spend quarter after quarter yet still come up empty.

I want my words back dammit.