Britney Spears battled the music and I…I battle the blank page.
I write every day. Every single day. Whether it’s a screenplay, a novel, a creative nonfiction work, a poem, an email, a text, this blog—my brain is always in a state of creating words for story, entertainment, or just plain, old communication. And no, I don’t use ChatGPT—that’s cheating.
Because I’m always crafting something, I frequently run into writer’s block. Me versus the blank page in an epic (lonely, isolated) battle for creative control of words and their meaning. I have had days when I stare at a blank page for hours, listening to music or some random show on Netflix, while I wait for my brain freeze to unthaw and let the words flow. On some occasions, I sit for only a moment before the words come flying out and I’m right back on track. Frequently, and this is especially with emails, I write something (anything!), go let the dog out, and come back to the semi-awful thing I wrote. Usually what I’ve written inspires something great, and I can then finish the thing, whatever it may be.
But typically the elixir to writer’s block (for all you other writers out there having the block right now) is to go interact with a human being. Not your dog or your cat or your goldfish—it’s going to have to be a real person. I know how much writers cringe at the idea of interacting with the human race, especially when they’re on a deadline or struggling to finish a chapter that eludes them, but trust me when I say, flesh and blood interaction is your cure.
I’ve had other suggestions before like doing a different creative activity (drawing, painting, character sketching), or exercising or taking a walk, and the helpful “just write anything,” which works surprisingly well. The latter can lead to great things from the chicken scratches of total junk, which never ceases to amaze me. All of these suggestions work to some degree, so I encourage them and support their different approaches to helping any writer get unstuck.
But I stand by the notion that there is something different and magical about taking a few minutes or a few days with another human that ushers in a unique, inspirational energy. The conversation, the sharing of ideas, the ability to step away from the blank page—it’s more powerful than anything else I’ve ever tried to make writer’s block disappear. For some reason, going and living life instead of just writing about it is a beautiful elixir to unearth the feelings and thoughts that are percolating just below the surface of a writer’s fingertips.
Writing is a very lonely existence, especially if it’s your chosen profession. I often (falsely) believe I can do it all on my own because, quite frankly, when I write, I am doing it all my own. But the finished product is never on my own. There is an editor, a publisher, readers, peers—all kinds of people the writing must go through before I can get a sense of what I’ve put to paper, of who I am in that piece of writing. So while the writing occurs in a vacuum, the final product is a kaleidoscope, and only through the mirrors of others’ points of views can a writer’s work be truly realized. This is why human interaction at the front of the process, when the words are hard and the loneliness has sunk into the bones, is necessary and energizing. In those moments, I can see bits of reflecting light in the words, laughter, and beauty of my loved ones, and unlock the words I need to finish my work.
If I were a doctor, I’d prescribe flesh and blood to any writer struggling with the blank page. It’s a sure thing.
xo ~ S.