Beyond writer's block

Freedom’s just another word for re-entering the mystery of your own writing, or, how to start writing again tomorrow!

I was going to tell you a bit of a story about a painting by Jose Clemente Orozco (one of the Mexican social realist muralists (1883-1949) along with Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros)-“Gods of the Modern World”-and I will. But as with any story, there are a few places to stop along the way, and some things to gather, to put in the basket as we go.

This is an easy post to begin writing, because I left something to hook to, to begin writing again. Many good people have said that a good way to move easily back into writing in your next session is to stop in the middle, to stop before you are finished, before you have exhausted what you are writing (and I do ask you to please enter the work and play of writing with the understanding that it is infinite, that the stream of language and story and song within you is infinite, and needn’t ever be exhausted). I want to add something to this useful hint to help writers keep going forward rather than stare at the blank page.

Now, the blank page can actually be looked at as an enormous field of free play, the very place where you have felt the most free to be true to your voice and vision, a place where NO ONE can tell you what to do, a place where you can say anything and everything you need to and want to, without fear of reprisal while you are in the liberating act of writing. So, while the blank page can be seen as pure joy, as open New Mexico sky or calm ocean (before we started to understand what is happening beneath our waters that is killing the fish, the coral.), a sure way to keep from being overwhelmed by a vast, seemingly empty expanse is to leave one rock, one tree, one creature, one bird, one passerby, one discarded bit of clothing, one old newspaper, one memory of an embrace-one image-one phrase-in the field.

You can look at this in different ways. That image can be so vivid, so sharp and clear in your mind, so fully alive that it is a portal for you to return to in your next writing session and just step through, directly into the stream of language you had left at the end of the last session, when you popped up from your chair, ready to settle into sleep or snack or netflix, or your lover’s arms or the memory of them.

Or this. Not a clear image, not an absolute lifesaver, not the first lines of the next chapter. Then what? Allow yourself to re-enter your writing powerfully by this road: when you are leaving a session of writing, you notice that there is something in the story, in the poem, in your path of telling, that is not fully visible. It is not fully visible because it is not fully formed, perhaps, or it is still in the mists, or you have no language for it yet, or your narrator won’t look at it yet. Perhaps it is just cooking. And so your time away from your writing is time during which this mystery is cooking.

So then, perhaps your first questions as you come back to the desk or the journal, as you come back to your next session of writing, might be these:

What is the mystery cooking in your internal, underground workings, the diner open all night even as you sleep?

Simply put, what did you-or your narrator-or your character-not yet say?

What did you-or your narrator-or your character-hold back? Not face? Forget? Skip over? Ignore? Just remember?


You’re in. You’re writing. You’re surprised. You’re on a roll. You are not following an outline, plodding along, doing your time, placeholding. You are writing and discovering, and in no pain.

Oops. Well, I will indeed say a few things about that Orozco painting and the story around it. Soon.

In the meantime, good writing to you.


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