The Block: A lovely little lesson from Anne Lamott
So as you might have gathered, I took an unintentional hiatus from my blog in June. I’ve still been reading and loving literature and all things creative, but I myself haven’t been feeling too creative lately. My writing’s gone downhill. Some books became a chore. I’m not finding the rhythm to my creative life and I’ve been wondering why.
And then I read an amazing book on writing and life called “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott. This book very well might have gotten me out of my own slump and self-pity party of one, which has pretty much kept me creatively deadlocked for the past few months.
We writers all experience some sort of writers block in our lives. But what I love about Anne Lamott’s book – a funny, poignant, and incredibly insightful and generous read- is that she accurately points me to the root of the problem. I’m not blocked in my writing, but rather my creative well is currently empty. There’s no gas in the tank, so to speak, and no amount of writing is going to get me to the place I need to go if there’s no spark. And it makes perfect sense. How do you fill up your creative gas tank? By living, Anne says, by experiencing life, by getting outside and taking a walk. Without your iPod, I would suppose. The only way we can ignite our creative flame is by living in the moment and paying attention to what’s around us. Be affected by what’s around us.
Ah, I think. So what have I been doing in the last month or so? I go to work, I exercise, I spend time with my husband, I go to acting class, I sleep, I read… but most of this is just routine. I’m not letting myself out nor am I letting anyone in. Honestly, the most present I’ve felt in the last month was during a 5K race in Culver City because I walked the entire thing without listening to music or talking to anyone. I simply took in the scene and let myself observe and be observed. I saw mom and pop shops I’ve never seen before; a gun store with the largest neon sign advertising guns that I’ve ever seen. I watched a little girl with the funniest walk stomp her way through all three miles. I felt charged, believe it or not, because I felt a part of something. And my creative gas meter went up a notch.
Life and experiencing life is our wellspring, and if you aren’t living there is no way in hell you can write with any sort of believability or emotional truth. I get this. Lamott also recommends writing your childhood as a means of escaping from the dreaded block. Focus on your past, get it out on paper, and pay no attention to the content- no one intends to read it. Just get the fuel moving. Go outside and garden for a while, pet your cat, take a hike- get in touch with a part of yourself you haven’t seen in a while. These are all good ways to get out of a rut.
So this is what I’ve started doing to get past my block. I hope to be back to blogging at least 4 times a month very soon. Just gotta get my creative juices flowing again! And if anyone else has tips on pushing through writers block, share here!