Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Holes, Blocks and Pyramids

A Real Writer's Block
I just had a writing friend say to me, "I want to know how you found your way out of the hole. I need to dig my way out too." 

No, not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell (thanks J.R.R.), something much worse. The Writing Hole. The place where I lived for about a year and a half. The place where you want to write, but something isn't plugged in right, you forgot your pen and the complete lack of writing is nearly suffocating. You wonder how you got there. Why you're not leaving and if you'll ever, ever find your way out. 

At least that's how it was for me.

I truly wish I had the answer for my friend and for every writer who finds themselves in the black, but it seems there's no one perfect way to climb out. The good side of that statement is that there are many, many ways to climb out and hopefully one of them will work for you.

I did some googling and found about as many types of holes, or theories on writer's block, as there are writers. One, or some of these ideas may work for my friend or for you when you find yourself in over your head.

Scheduling Solutions and a Few Touchy Feelies

"This Story Isn't Working" Solutions (And when they say THE ten types of writer's block...you just remember there are a lot more types than that.) 

A Smattering of Great Ideas (This link is geared perhaps more to essays but I thought it was brilliant for all writing. Remember to follow the links on this page--tons of great stuff.)

And on a more personal note, my own ladder out had something to do with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs -- a pyramid of motivation which I was just discussing with Laura last night. In Maslow's Hierarchy, breathing would be a more immediate, basic need, it's at the bottom of the pyramid. Writing is an activity more at the top. Without the foundation blocks in place, it's tough to support that capstone. Maslow's Hierarchy is a mix of physical and psychological needs.

Although my health had been in question for quite some time, it completely crashed about a year and a half ago. I had no idea how this affected my writing. I beat myself up for not writing. What was wrong with me? Was I no longer a writer? I forced myself to write as best I could anyway. My husband insisted I write once a week alone at the library where I would often just stare at the computer and force myself to type a page or two purely because of his faith in me.

And then I started healing, physically. Sometime last spring, my brain woke up. I had no idea it had been asleep. Yes, I knew I had all of these physical problems but really didn't clue into the mental ones. (Yes, mental problems, I hear you chuckling now.) But suddenly along with my increasing physical health, I could remember phone numbers, addresses, discuss quantum theory with my kids and had ideas--so many ideas--for writing projects. 

This winter the insatiable need to write flooded back. Every free moment is filled with writing for me. It bugs me NOT to write. Something in me is making up for lost time. And not one of those great exercises in those links helped me. It was just time and healing that I needed. Physical healing. 

So if you're beating yourself up, and you're sick, entertain the possibility that you will write when your pyramid is more grounded. And if you can write while you're sick, then count your blessings and do it because the world must really need what you have to say. 

And when you're in the hole, remember, you are not alone. Every writer has been there for one reason or another. Even Mark Twain. Even F. Scott Fitzgerald. Even me. :) Hang on to your writing friends and be nice to yourself and just keep trying. One winter night, the flame may pop to life unexpectedly, but only if you keep trying. 

God bless.


  1. I just have to say, your writer's block photographs better than mine. Perhaps we should trade cameras? ;)

    Really great post--thank you for sharing! My holes tend to be dug with emotional shovels or because I've broken a few rungs on my ladder and need to spend time fixing it--but the same principle applies!

    1. Thanks! You know the writer's block edges? I didn't notice until I photographed it that those black marks are all words! No idea what they say...


  2. Wonderful post. I don't think there is a writer that didn't suffer from this at some point--or any artist for that matter.

    1. Amen. But more than one have quit because of it. So sad :( And I almost did. Not sure the attraction to write would have permeated my soul again if I'd wandered off very far. Thanks for keeping me close enough to feel the pull.

  3. I'm glad you were able to climb out of the hole. That must have been a difficult time. I can't imagine not being able to write, though I have days where I can't seem to do it much, but a yer and a half would kill me!

    1. Well maybe not kill you. But feel like a part of your soul had died? Sure ;)

  4. I have Ginger Churchill's Wild Rose's Weaving, and *love* this gentle PB. Had I known you were in a hole, Ginger, I would have sent you a tender fan letter.
    But you climbed out yourself. YES.

  5. Thank you! Your comments sure make me feel good NOW, so that's just as fabulous. I appreciate it.