All Out Of Ink

May 9, 2011

Finding the Time (or, Writing in Spite of Exhaustion)

Filed under: Inspiration,Writer's Block — Laynie @ 6:19 pm

I hate to disappoint you, but I cannot tell you how this is done. Many helpful blogs, parenting websites, self-help books, magazines, and childless great-aunts exist to help you learn how to do it with a dramatic energy second only to Bon Jovi at Jazz Fest. (This is on my mind because Bon Jovi was as Jazz Fest last weekend 30 miles from my house and I couldn’t go.)

If I was presumptuous enough to think I could tell everyone how to find time for writing, you would be within your rights to dismiss everything else I had to say as hogwash. But what I have to say is not hogwash, and to prove it, I am not going to be presumptuous like that. My goal is to help us all push past the special brand of writer’s block that develops along with our children.

Right now, exhaustion has me a little stuck. My brain can’t seem to find its way into the land of the living. Only my body moves. I’m typing, not because I have something helpful to say, but because I’m supposed to be blogging. Just like I change diapers because I’m supposed to be doing it. Or washing dishes. Or chasing the toddler who’s chasing the cat that’s not supposed to be inside. I’m here because I’m supposed to be.

Yet, words have begun to happen.

When I get stuck, one thing I do is think of someone I admire. Today, I thought of John Keats. He wrote a vast number of pieces considering he died when he was 25. His words have echoed my own thoughts many times.

Keats once wrote about how he felt the first time he saw the Elgin Marbles. His amazement caused me to learn what the Elgin Marbles were, and I also found them — and their history — amazing. (For more on the Elgin Marbles, here is a site that gives pictures, history, and the poem itself: Learn More)

Historical art forms may not serve as inspiration for you, but something does. I don’t mean inspiration like the “ah-ha” moment that comes before an idea for a 3-part novel (Lord of the Rings) or an epic (The Iliad). I mean inspiration that gives you the ability to like an idea enough to write a sentence about it. Just one sentence. Everything ever written started with a word or group of words that conveyed either a piece of life, or a reaction to a piece of life. If your mind is too tired to create a piece of life, then react to someone else’s.

Let me say that again. If you just can’t create something new and special, if you don’t have anything in yourself to share, then let your mind react to something someone else has already created.

Your reactions serve as the basis for everything you will eventually create because your observations change you. When you are different, your creations will be different. Your response to another idea is important. Don’t hesitate to record it.

It can be as complex and remarkable as “On Seeing the Elgin Marbles.” It can be as simple as a sentence stating why you like or don’t like a quote someone posted on facebook. And then, over time, it might develop into something more. If not, that’s fine. You have created something.

I don’t know about you, but that’s what makes me feel like a writer who’s not all out of ink.

(One note of apology: This works primarily for creative writing. Academic and research writing don’t always benefit from this exercise, though it can be a good way to get enthusiasm rolling if your subject doesn’t immediately intrigue you.)


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