On Defeating Writer’s Block

There it is, that blinking line– the cursor flashing black on the white page. You sit and stare, wishing it would go away. No, wishing that it would move on its own to produce line after line of exquisite prose; something reminiscent of Joyce, or Woolf in its complexities and implications. But instead, the line just keeps waiting.

Writer’s block like this happens to me more often than I’d care to admit. It happens to all of us more than we’d like and I’m pretty safe in saying that we wish it would go away. There are so many tips and tricks for beating writer’s block. I prefer going for a run or a walk to think through where I am in my story or WIP. Several weeks ago I took a walk just to help clarify a thesis for a midterm essay I was writing. I looked like a crazy person, power-walking while talking furiously to myself to figure out which points were salient, and which were trash. I’m a gesticulator, so my hands flew in every which way, arranging and rearranging the invisible evidence. I ended up having to finish my trek at a run so I wouldn’t forget the sentence I had concocted.

But what about another approach that doesn’t make you look completely insane? I came across a video today of George Mason University professor Eric Pankey, who was commissioned by the U.S. National Archives to write poems about three photographs from the Civil War. Here he is reading them:

Not only are the photographs and poetry compelling, but the idea behind Pankey’s creation is also intriguing. If you’re stuck, why not dig through an online archive, or your local historical society’s archive to find images or film clips or even an advertisement that strikes you as interesting? Bring along paper and a pen and just start writing.

Maybe this bit of brainstorming might turn into a story or poem. Maybe, like with authors Jodi Picoult and Sara Gruen (Water for Elephants) these scribbles may become a novel.

So go on, in honor of #ArchivesMonth, get searching! Here’s a great place to start: http://www.archives.gov/

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