By Kathy Koches
We’ve all heard the term “Writers’ Block” and most of us know that it means we are “stuck” and need to get our creative juices flowing. But how exactly do we do that?
I discovered something about myself a few years ago that surprised me. I knew that I worked well under the pressure of a deadline, as I was a paralegal in my “former life” and lived by the clock, statutes of limitation and the like. There was always urgency in just about every project I worked on, so no time for procrastination or delay. But when I sat down to write for pleasure after I retired, I found myself staring at a blank computer screen.
What to do? I had signed up to read at my Writers’ Group and had nothing to contribute. I wrestled with the problem for several days, trying to come up with an outline or at least an idea for a story, but, alas, nothing. It wasn’t until the night before the meeting that I had an “ah ha moment.” I realized that having the pressure of a “deadline” somehow jump-started my brain and it was only then that the stories came pouring out.
I also found that I needed quiet solitude in order to write. Even if my husband was in the same room, silently reading, I could not seem to get over my “writers’ block.” Some people need stimulation, such as music, or being outdoors, to inspire them. It is different for each writer, but it is important to figure out what works best for you and not fight against it.
Some of my writer friends talk about their “muse” or what inspires them. For me it is not just one thing. Some times I am feeling nostalgic, and write about a childhood memory or an experience I had in the past. Other times I gaze out at beautiful Lake Chapala and am inspired by its beauty or by nature herself; the azure blue sky or a flower in bloom. Often my little dog will be my “muse” and remind me what unconditional love feels like. And sometimes a story will come into my mind completely out of nowhere. A few times as I was drifting off to sleep or when I was just waking up, a great idea (or at least I thought it was great at the time) would come into my head and I would even write a few paragraphs in my mind. Unfortunately, when I actually woke up I could not remember the story, and sometimes could not even remember the subject! A good friend suggested I put a pad and pencil on my bedside table, so I could write down a word or two to jog my memory when I got up the next morning. I put off doing this for quite a while, until I realized for the umpteenth time that I had lost yet another idea for a story. Now I have that pad and pencil right at my fingertips, as I don’t want to lose yet another story idea.
I recently attended a terrific class at LCS given by Rachel McMillen. One of the many tips she gave us was to make an outline and create a story arc. She suggested we really “get to know” our characters, live in their heads, figure out how they would respond to any situation and crises. When I am writing I try to do just that, so that the characters are real and believable. I want to write so that the reader feels they know the characters and care about them. Often putting myself “inside their head” helps me get past my “writers’ block.”
Each of us has a wealth of experience and stories to tell, be they true life experiences, or a fictional world we create in our minds. The trick is letting those stories out of our heads and putting them down on paper. That is why it is important to find out what works for you, so you can get past your “writers’ block” and share your stories with the world.