Last week, I had a moment. It’s one that I haven’t experienced often, but it was significant anyway. I was sitting in front of my computer staring at a blank screen, and I just couldn’t make myself write. It wasn’t because of the dreaded “writer’s block.” I had ideas. I had lots of ideas. But I couldn’t manage to form the words to get them on the page.
My eyes were drifting in and out of focus, and somehow the (rare) silence in the room was deafening. The only thing I could hear was the clock on the wall ominously ticking away the precious moments of nap time that I so desperately needed.
I soon found myself staring out of the window to my right and watching a cardinal flit from tree to tree. Then I found myself refilling my stale cup of coffee and wandering out onto the back deck. I stood in silence for several minutes and breathed in the warm, humid air. It was too hot to be outside, but I couldn’t make myself sit at my laptop for another second.
I sat down on the deck with my legs crossed and sipped my coffee as I watched the cardinal continue to hop on the branches and chirp to his heart’s content. Even though the cardinal is our state bird, it’s often possible to go months without seeing one. That is unless you live at my house. This little guy makes an appearance every few days, and there is often a female that joins him.
Today, it was business as usual. He was chirping, playing, enjoying the sunshine. He had nothing to do except anything he wanted.
Then I realized what I had to do to get out of this writing funk:
I know, I know. It’s the opposite of what I was trying to accomplish. Writer’s write. It’s what they do.
But my brain was in serious need of a break. I can only do so much research, scribble so many notes, type so many words before everything starts to run together and the screen starts to morph into a weird gooey blob.
If you’re anything like me, you might find it really easy to shut yourself up in a room and work on your craft, whatever it might be, for hours on end. I know I’ve constantly got something new in the works, something I need to be writing, something I’m excited to finish.
But this makes it really easy to forget one of the basics of writing (or any art for that matter): Writers build their craft from life experience. At some point, they have to put down the pen or shut the laptop and go out and experience life.
There are times when I need to stop seeing everything as an opportunity to write and just experience what’s happening around me.
Like a mother taking pictures of her child is in danger of missing the moment in her attempt to capture it, writers often focus too much on the experience as it relates to the next piece rather than the experience itself.
So, I stopped writing. It was just for the day, and then I was back to work feeling more refreshed with a slew of new ideas.
Take some time to stop writing – maybe for just an hour, a day, or even a week. Do some yoga, go for a run, take a day trip with your family, visit a friend. Stop writing and take the time to drink in the world around you. If the experience is significant enough (or even simple enough), you will have the opportunity to write about it when the time is right.