Sometimes, writers think they don’t have anything to say. More often, writers have too much to say, but can’t say what they want to, don’t have the energy to do so, or feel paralyzed by their now, or memories of deep, dark, nameless stories.
Writers share the un-sharable.
They breathe life into rattling bones of the hopeful and hurtful skeletons that lurk in each of us.
Writing and storytelling is a part of us. It’s of our ancestors, whether they’re of Nomads or Vikings. Generations of humans have passed on lessons, truths, and love through the sharing of stories that show our most wounded parts, and our most hopeful.
There are thousands of books about writing. How to do it, how to not. But really, for the person sitting behind her keyboard, willing nerves or ideas to come, the messages on “how to” are all the same.
Sit and write.
Find a small detail, and write around it.
Show, don’t tell.
Write what you know.
Freewrite, for however many minutes or hours.
Write the worst shit in history, and find the one word that inspires your next words.
All of the above is good advice, written by writers who I admire deeply, and would trade skin with, were I able to keep myself and my son in there, somehow.
I use each of these reminders every single time I write.
While there are countless better writers than I who share advice about what to do when you can’t write, here’s what I do.
- I go outside. I don’t run or anything because running is bouncy and horrible, but I sit on the stoop, and think about other lives. I wonder where the cars passing by are going. Are they celebrating? Grieving? I think of the stories behind the noise behind a passing car, or a laughing neighbor.
- Wonder why you write. Think about it. Why bother writing? There’s a story to tell, right?
- I remember people across the world. There are those, sleeping among trees, hoping for freedom tonight, who only had roots for dinner.
- I think about my son, and what to teach him and to not tell him about those who only had roots for dinner tonight, while he had a second helping of chicken.
- I write about how he wouldn’t eat, and how he wants a second helping of chicken. Usually, memories such as this make me want to remember all of it. All of his childhood.
- I think about my own childhood.
- I read. This doesn’t really help me write directly, and sometimes, is paralyzing because there are so many great writers out there… but there are also so many stories that are just stories, and I feel better about telling the one in my head.
- I do the freewrite thing, and have, since I was a young girl. I remember journaling with my pink pen, and writing about how I had nothing to say, nothing to report, nothing to share. And somehow, in the private moments with my pink pen, the “having nothing to say” turned in to having a lot to say. I wrote stories about aliens coming with advice, about the Rickys next door, and about how I thought a kiss was probably grosser than friends had said.
- I make myself sad, on purpose, which isn’t hard for me (if you’re a less anxious type, or more extroverted, maybe you change this to making yourself laugh on purpose). I cry when my team wins the Superbowl, and when my son’s team shakes hands after winning or losing. I can’t help it, during those moments.
When I can’t write, I think about those feelings, and the pride and sorrow that hold hands with winning and losing teams.
That’s it. When it comes to writing, just doing it is the point. And yes, I get it. So often, the just doing it is the hardest of all. Netflix is waiting. I get that.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post and this week’s sentence is from Echo (COOL NAME, right?) of The Mad Mommy. “When I can’t write…”