At the start of the Spring Semester of 2017 at Purchase College, I was sure I was in a deep funk. The worst spell, the most horrendous curse any writer could possibly fall under—Writer’s Block.
Every time I picked up my notebook or opened my laptop to continue a piece, my hands were glued to the same scene.
“The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was the man from the night before…”
I couldn’t come up with material after that. I had a goal in mind. My character would wake up from a one-night-stand and have the awkward moment morning after with her future romantic interest. But I was always stuck on what to say after that sentence, how to describe the way the characters look and feel, how to show versus tell, how to go for a non-cliché angle, how to be original as possible. After weeks of pushing the story to the side, I began having the same problem with my other pieces, and I knew that I had the inevitable curse.
Writer’s Block is one of the most frightening things I have ever gone through because I felt like I was failing as a writer, the one thing I want to do with my future, and to see myself fizzle out—I felt forced out of my element. However, I wasn’t a quitter. I started researching ways and tactics to cure Writer’s Block. I’ve tried many, but the following eight are what I found the most helpful.
1. Follow a prompt: Sometimes following a different prompt can be great practice, or it can push your work into a different direction that might change your story for the better. Some helpful books I’ve purchased to play with prompts are “The Writer's Block: 786 Ideas To Jump-start Your Imagination” by Jason Rekulak, and “Complete the Story” by Piccadilly. Sometimes 5-below have these cute and simple "Complete the Story" books, or "500 Writing Prompts".
2. Listen to classical music: I found it distracting to listen to regular pop music, or any music with lyrics. I’ve found Classical music a better way to stay focused on a task.
3. Set a Daily Goal or Deadline: It was easier for me to write after I’ve set a goal for myself whether it be 1000 words, or finish a chapter, or a specific section a day. This helped me with my time management.
4. Read Your Work Aloud: Reading my work aloud has given me a chance to catch errors or fix up story logic and sometimes would give me inspiration for a different scene or I’d come up with new phrases. Reading my work aloud allowed me to expand in certain areas of writing.
5. Write in the mornings: After a good night’s sleep, and after hours of dreaming, the mind is more imaginative and creative when you wake up. Also, it’s much more quiet and peaceful in the mornings.
6. Step Away for Anything Creative: Sometimes it’s best to step away from a work for a bit when dealing with a block, but it’s even better to step away and do something creative that gets your creative drive moving. Try coloring, drawing, crafting, or even photography. When I have a block I begin to doodle anywhere in my notebook and my mind drifts as I draw. Next thing I know an idea splurges in my head.
7. Play A Writing Game: My favorite game to play is “Hot Laptop”. It requires a small group of people, but it’s worth it. It can be played on a laptop, or in a notebook, as long as each player has something to write on. The game starts with each player having only two minutes to start writing a story, whatever they like. After two minutes, everyone passes their stories to right, and the player to the right continues the story. This pattern continues until everyone has their original laptops, and then you share your stories. It’s an entertaining method and is a great way to get the mind moving.
8. Write to Write: Sometimes it’s good to just write whatever is in your head, not worrying about mistakes or rambling. Just get all of your thoughts out and worry about corrections later.
Through my research, I’ve slowly learned that Writer’s Block is just an illusion. It’s a wall Writer’s create subconsciously, due to many reasons.
1. Fear—A writer might have hesitations and doubt in their work.
2. Perfectionism—A writer might feel like their work is not good enough, and wants it to be better, but is unsure of how to make it better.
3. Poor Timing—A writer might not have the time to write or too short of a time to sit and write.
These three reasons for the lack of writing flow is the reason Writer’s Block has its name. These three reasons are what holds us writers back from our work and growth. It’s natural for hesitations to hold someone back, but it’s something we must push aside to produce good work.
The writing process focuses heavily on the revision process. A great story will be the result of recycling, recycling, and more recycling. The best parts will come in many the 5th revision, or maybe the 10th, but it’ll come once you take a second look.
Have faith and trust in your writing abilities and make time for it, because you love it.
by Ashley Fields
I was born by the river and oh, what a beautiful thing the river is, the river was, the river accented. I was born by the lively trees and syrup maples and the honey oaks and the blossoming violets and poppies. I was born by the sunrise, the beautiful oranges, reds, purples, rising over the indigo as the moon became trapped below the banks. I was born by the sounds of trickling waters and the ticklish breath of Zephyr. I was born under a blanket of warmth, soft feathers, and cloudy fur. I was born by the scent of berries and bread. I was born by a beautiful mystery and great scenery.
But then time touched it and I was set as well.
I was set by a river and oh what a nasty thing the river is, the river was, the river accented. I was set by leafless trees and hollow willows and the haunting branches and the lifeless black roses and weeping lilies. I was set by a sunset, the dead blues, and charcoal slipping into the night as the moon ascended above, taunting, mocking, and laughing at me. I was set by the noises of roaring waters, rapids, crashing through the rocks, and the harsh wind of Boreas. I was set by the scent of rotting flesh and metal.
I was birthed by happiness and beauty, but I was ended by pain, loneliness, and all the other benefits death placed upon me. I had lived a blind puzzle, a treacherous mystery. And that river, that beautiful and nasty river carried me. It took me home.
It wasn’t until my back was against the cold,
dewy ground of the Great Lawn,
my burdens sinking into the soil,
eyes gleaming up at the constellations drawn,
laughter and smoke floating in the air,
my friends and I drinking without a care—
that I found the North Star, and I asked it a silent question,
and ten more thoughts struck the longer I stared.
10. I see you, the star my ancestors did. I know you see all the pain
that will never cease, that we’re forced to pay.
Three hundred years feels interminable, sixty a vacation,
and every year is distorted, yet unfortunately the same.
We’ve been surviving since birth and it’s all we’ve ever known,
I walk the same earth on which my ancestors have bled,
they danced, and sang, and ran when overseers rang.
Polaris, do you too cry when we’re left for dead?
9. Freedom is a concept I will never know.
It’s fighting for gold, but my blows never quake.
It smells like temptation, a ticking bomb,
a withheld explosion of choices I never get to make.
It’s intangible to me, a simple mystery I’ll never know the answer to,
a happy ending I can’t read.
But it’s there, without reach, a beautifully bronzed laurel wreath
only the white and privileged get to keep.
8. Who can I be without my constant switch of personality?
Without an adaption for white society to hire me?
I am scared I will accidentally say ‘yo’ to a gun,
because my back will be on the ground due to hostility.
I’m the one who needs to code-switch, I’m the one who knows racism still exists,
I’m the one who is surprisingly articulate, I’m the one who must persist,
I’m the one who is forced to change in a land that spills blood,
when it comes to equality, I’m not the one who resists.
7. We sleep in darkness, yet darkness never sleeps.
With a callous grin, they’ll snuff us out before we reach any dreams.
There is a seat at a throne, I can never claim
My life in waiting to be reaped.
I am David at the foot of a billion Goliaths.
I am a doe, in a forest of hidden wolves that want me to subdue,
I am a mouse in a field of lions that salivate for the rich culture in my fur,
waiting to skin me, for their own revenue.
6. I am a blind person on a tightrope, hands behind my back
surrounded by a thousand obstacles and transparent knives.
I’m being pricked and poked, beaten down, breaking down,
underestimating the depth of each stab every single time.
There are millions of ghosts in my ears, they are wailing,
shouting warnings to watch our backs, your lifespan is not guaranteed,
spend your days and nights wondering: Who is next?
Who’s going to get me? Which one of my white friends smile like they fear me?
5. I can’t breathe, why am I not allowed to breathe?
I tremble from the fear of my stolen identity.
They can kill me, fear me, beat me, and chain me,
replicate me so they can be me, breed me,
say they don’t see me, feign indifference, then still
mentally, systemically, blamelessly, guiltlessly enslave me,
turn the fault to me, then berate me,
because melanin, I am copper, almond, rich chocolate, and honey.
4. I am a target, to them I am dangerous, a liability,
a rabid dog that needs handling by brutality,
I am that useless commodity.
I don’t know how much time is saved for me,
How many more breaths I have left to breathe
before a bullet, or a noose, or any other crime of hate finds me
3. I am Black,
2. I am a Black Woman,
1. Polaris, you must see what else society is going to do to me.
Where is the spot God has left for me to write my name in history?
Polaris, do you cry for me?
Is freedom in the future only you can see?
Is change there, are my dreams there?
What shall I do for a seat on our throne?
0. I keep surviving, I’ve been doing it since birth.
It’s all we’ve ever known.