“One day, the songs stopped coming. And while you’ve suffered from periods of writer’s block, albeit briefly, this is something chronic. Day after day, you face a blank page and nothing is coming. And those days turn to weeks and weeks to months and pretty soon those months have turned into years, with very little to show for your efforts. No songs.” – Sting, 2014 TED Talk, Sting: How I started writing songs again
Writers of every style and form suffer from time to time where the slate goes blank. Most would call this “writer’s block”. I am not particularly fond of the term. I find it too negative, which is counterproductive to creativity. A block is something that I see as a brick wall, an impenetrable barrier. Something that I am never getting through. I attribute the term “writer’s block” to those things in my day-to-day life that keep me blocked from writing. Things that are out of my control.
A blank slate, not being able to form your words is not writer’s block. There is nothing substantial blocking you from writing but yourself and your mind. It is something that can be overcome. There is nothing impenetrable there.
Something has happened to cause this blank slate, and it is one of the most frustrating things for writer because it is 100% within our control. Our page sits empty and nothing comes. We have free time from family / work / responsibilities to dedicate to this craft and yet the page remains blank.
It is because for a moment, we have stopped thinking and fear of the words never coming back. Internally, you go into a panic dreading that you will never write again, that the words will never come back. It is self-sabotage and that causes your imagination to shut down.
The words have disappeared, however they are not blocked. In actuality for this period of “blankness”, your words are just on vacation. They are not choked from flowing, they just don’t feel like flowing. Words need inspiration and stimulation. Go hunt them down and bring them back to where you are. Get your words and yourself back on track by starting at the beginning and stir that creativity pot.
No, I don’t mean that you have to start plotting or writing your piece all over again, but instead revisit the beginning. Look at what originally fueled the flames of your imagination when the project began. Reconnect with who you were at the start of the project. Talk to the old you and your muse. Find out what inspired you in the first place to get the imagination steaming. In Sting’s experience, he had to physically go back to where he came from — back to the beginning of everything — to get the words flowing again. Where ever that beginning for you, that is where you have to get your words back from their margarita-filled holiday. If you can’t take a break – neither should they.
Now, if you are starting fresh on a new project, and you are drawing a blank on how to get moving, Sting made an interesting point in his TED Talk, that I believe is a fantastic solution. Think about others instead of about yourself. Typically, writers tend to put themselves into their work. And when the well runs dry within our own perception, shift to another person’s. Look at someone else’s happiness and struggles, anger and passions. Use those experiences, events, and emotions as inspiration for your words.
The times of blank slates are only temporary. Your words are not gone forever. However, you have to be proactive and can’t just sit by, waiting for them to return. Go hunt them down! Get yourself and your words back on track by re-exploring why you are writing. Reconnect with your beginning and subject to your muse. Your words will follow and flow.