Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Writing Out Of A Rut

By Tracy Kiely

To be honest, I’ve always confused “being in a rut” with “suffering from writer’s block.” I know there’s a difference, but it’s hard to explain that difference when you’re staring at a blank computer screen with a deadline looming. And when you are in that situation, you really don’t give a rat’s ass what the technical term is; you just want it to stop.
It’s kind of like being asked, “Is it a sharp pain or a dull pain?” Um…it’s pain. And I’d like it to stop. Now.
I once read a quote by Roy Blount, Jr. that said, “I think writer's block is simply the dread that you are going to write something horrible. But as a writer, I believe that if you sit down at the keys long enough, sooner or later something will come out."
Thanks, Roy. That’s very helpful. But, somehow, I don’t think Old Ray shares a home with three kids, two large excitable dogs, one permanently peeved cat, and an ever-growing pile of laundry. I’d like to see Roy sit for hours on end waiting for “something to come out.” Something will come out – but I doubt an obscenity-laced rant – even if it is woven in an artistic-like tapestry – is going to do the trick.
So, what does one do? Well, here’s the thing. I don’t really know. I’ve found taking the dogs for a long walk helps somewhat. Mainly because the Gods are cruel and they feed my brain all sorts of lovely ideas when I am away from paper and pen.
Writing something very different from your usual style can help too. Read something, perhaps a set of instructions. Now, write it as if you were, say Hemmingway.

            “Nick picked up the wrench. It was a good wrench. It was heavy and made well. Nick felt the weight of it in his hand. He drank his martini and thought, 'This is a damn good wrench. There was a God. All was right in the world.' After a while he thought of her. He walked home alone in the rain.”

            Now, does this do anything? Hell if I know. But, it will get your brain working a bit differently. It might spark an idea. Or it just might make you want a martini. I can’t say for sure. But, after staring at a blank screen for three hours, both are acceptable outcomes.


Meredith Cole said...

You're right. Writer's block sucks. And I'd love if some of my instruction booklets came in the style of Hemmingway... Way better than those Ikea drawings!

TracyK said...

I have a theory that IKEA manuals are written by people who were left by their significant others because they "can't communicate."

Susan C Shea said...

In the 1970s, New York Magazine had a long running contest I used to enter (and occasionally win) i which they gave you a small news story or some other bit of text and challenged you to write it in the style of...I used to wait impatiently for the issue to arrive and found the exercise the most fun thing in my life other than my kids! I enthusiastically recommend doing this.