Thursday, May 14, 2009

Writer's Block & The Stuck Drawer


These are the sounds I make while trying to open a stuck drawer. The frustrating attempt of prying a drawer open reminds me of what I do when I encounter writer’s block. Writer’s block for me doesn’t entail not knowing what to write about or not having anything to write about, but it’s more HOW do I write about this or that thing. Angles, perspective, setting, flow, etc.—these are the things that stump me at times.

Think about the last time you tried to yank a stuck drawer open. Don’t our minds behave this way at times…jammed, stuck, lodged full of things both necessary and unnecessary?

I find the most effective way to dislodge the drawer is to locate a spatula. A spatula is good for freeing drawers. I shimmy the flat spatula into any slice, space or crack I can find to readjust the items in the drawer. And unbelievably this tends to work much quicker, creating much less frustration than my yanking and pulling as though my life depends on it.

Back to writing. I’ve read several blogs about what people do to free themselves of writer’s block. Responses included things like reading a book, watching a good movie, taking a walk (getting out in nature), putting the piece away for awhile…etc. I’m going to ask a different question.

What is your mental spatula? When you’ve tugged and jerked and have reached a sticking point in your writing, what mentally helps to ease the words back onto the page, to create character flow, to remedy that staggered scene?

Two of my mental spatulas:

Reading the dictionary

Knowing where my confidence comes from (after a rejection it’s not unusual for me to go through a brief time period of “beating myself up” (my own mental Fight Club). If I remember how I’m intimately aligned with God I’m able to get back to the craft)

What works best for getting your mental drawer open so you can access the rest of your tools once again?

*photo from flickr


  1. I try to write everyday, even if it's complete gibberish It keeps me limber, my head in the game. I love your spatula analogy.

  2. For me, competition is a huge motivator! If I read something and think, I can do better, then it motivates me to try harder! But I understand that mental block when we're trying to find just the right words. That's super tough. I usually try and think of the opposite of the cliche I want to write.

  3. I write through the blocks. I tell myself it doesn't have to be good, but it does have to be on paper. I can always fix it later.

    And I throw a 24 hour pity party for myself when I get a rejection! After that, I can't moan, complain, or dwell on the dreaded R. It's back to work.

  4. I'd have to say prayer. Though I'm sure I'm not doing it right sometimes, because the answer takes way long for me to grasp.

  5. Thanks for the comment!! I hope you'll be coming back to visit!

  6. That's a great question! Some people don't think writer's block exists. I know that it does, but I think the more we practice at getting ourselves out, the less it exists. I usually just take a break or talk to my husband about what I'm stuck on. Discussing my work with others is a great help.

    Mentally, I guess, my spatula is seeing things from a different angle.

  7. Rebecca, I liked how you used the word limber in this context.

    Jody, I'll have to try that opposite thing. Hey, congratulations on the Genesis thing.

    Jill, we seem to handle writing in similar ways.

    Eileen, that is the best thing you can do in my opinion.

    Nic, I'll be back.

    Lady, I love that...seeing things from a different angle!

    Have a pleasant evening!
    ~ Wendy

  8. My spatula is writing every day. That and letting the characters write it out instead of me doing all the work. :D

  9. Painting. Or doing something else creative. It opens that side of the brain. I used to write through, but ended up junking because it was too wooden, too not me. Painting works best for me. Even when the spatula keeps reappearing.

  10. I think getting out of the house and getting around people helps. Also watching a well-written movie--that always motivates me to get my brain thinking differently.


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