I find it ironic that the new WordPress editor starts out a blank post with ‘Type to choose a block’ when that’s what I wanted to write about. Being blocked. I was sitting here staring at the wall, thinking about blocks, children’s blocks, the wooden blocks my Dad used to make for us kids… odds and sods of 2×4 or 2×6 or whatever was lying around, carefully sanded and smoothed. We had a lot of fun with those blocks, and they are long, long gone. You could build things with those blocks. I wonder what it would be like to have lived in one place for my entire life? To still be able to lay my hands on those blocks, or family photos, or… For generations of family? Heard a woman on a podcast the other day lamenting having to move her 7 yo child two hours from the town she’d lived in her entire life, and it wasn’t hard to see through that to her own fear of leaving what she had always known. Me? We had 19 addresses by the time I turned 18. I don’t know what it’s like to have childhood friends I’m still in touch with a few from my teen years, but close friends? Those would come later, in adulthood, and I’d have to learn how to build a foundation of friendship with the measly blocks I had been given of interpersonal relationship tools as a child into an adult and…
Writer’s block is a bad thing, we think. We want to go in a direction, and the way is blocked. It’s not actually blocks that can be moved and built with. Or is it? Perhaps the block means it’s time to hang that left at Albuquerque and go check out the rattlesnake museum I’m reliably informed can be found in that city. When I’m sitting at the keyboard with my fingers hovering and my mind uncharacteristically blank, maybe that’s the time to look up at the wall instead and let my thoughts wander. On my wall, from this chair, is the mantel over our so-far-unused fireplace, and on the mantel are several dragons, an art deco vase, a cypress knee that looks a little like a horse’s head, a book titled “Hard Tack and Coffee,” an owl’s feather, a framed pulp Western magazine, a mother bear nursing two cubs, a set of bonsai tools in a beautiful brocade case, sketchbooks, and an 1880s Kipling edition. Oh, and a string of fairylights shaped like bees. If you couldn’t make a story from some of that, I don’t know what to tell you. Possibly a story about a woman who resembled a magpie.
But that has nothing to do with the story you want to write, or for that matter the one I want to write, either. Doesn’t matter. No huhu. What it will do is warm up your fingers. Point your brain in the direction you want it to go in. Once that’s started, I think you’ll find things may flow better. It’s more about the exercise, and starting with a stretch before you try to vault over the block. Go around it, instead! Set a timer for 15 minutes, pick a prompt or a catalyst, and start writing. When the timer goes off, take a break, drink some water, and then sit down and do it again, only this time on the piece you wanted to work on.
The other thing that helps is to mindfully and deliberately set aside any distractions. Can you do the thing you are worrying about, right now? No? Put a reminder on your calendar for when you can, and set it aside like you would a physical object. If you can do it, then do it. Finish, and come back to the writing.
Me? I’m going to write until my husband wakes up, and then have coffee with him while building castles in the air. Until that time, there’s nothing more important I can be doing. Perhaps, in this way, I can make some progress, weaving my way through the labyrinth of my mental blocks, hoping I’m getting closer to my goal.