When I was a kid, I read a lot. I think that anyone who reads a lot eventually wants to start writing stories themselves. So on some nights, instead of reading, I'd sit in bed with a blank spiral bound notebook propped up on my knees, intending to write. Except, I mostly just stared at the page until it made me so mad, I'd throw it under my bed and go to sleep.
By age 18 or so, these experiences of writer's block made me think I didn't have what it took to be an author. I could write prose for sure, but coming up with the idea - that was the skill I lacked, and it seemed kind of essential.
What I didn't get was that staring at a blank page for an hour is hardly the best place to find story inspiration. At least, my brain doesn't work that way.
Here's how my brain does work:
When I was a kid, I used to spend literally hours shooting hoops in my driveway. I didn't even particularly like basketball, I just liked the way my mind would "float," so I could tell myself little stories in my head. It didn't take any thought to shoot the ball. I could just concentrate on the stories, which at that age were essentially fan fiction based on books I'd read or cartoons I'd watched on TV. Though this was back before fanfiction.net really existed, so I didn't even know that I was doing was called fan fiction.
A few years later, I replaced shooting baskets with sprinting up and down my parents' driveway Yes, it was weird. A few neighbors made comments, but I didn't really care. Physically, it felt great. I'd get my runner's high, and I'd also get to tell myself stories, which were now accompanied by music from my pre-ipod mp3 player, which was like having my own movie soundtrack. They were still fan fiction style stories, though.
Years and years later, towards the end of graduate school, I started taking long walks around Lake Artemesia (a really beautiful park just outside of the University of Maryland campus), listening to my ipod, and as usual, telling myself stories. Except now, for whatever reason, they weren't fanfiction anymore. They were my own stories. Rough and amateur as hell, but at least they were my own ideas. I think this was around the time that I read George R. R. Martin's opinion of fan fiction, and I think that was the final push I needed to build my own worlds and characters. Normally, I get annoyed when authors get snobby or even belligerent about fan ficiton, but Martin's explanation made a lot of sense to me.
And it wasn't until then, on those long Lake Artemesia walks, that I also finally make the connection between coming up with stories and physical movement. I could tell stories, and I could come up with ideas, I just had to be moving around as I did it. Sitting and staring at a blank page or screen leaves my brain completely stale. It's like, if I stop moving, I stop thinking creatively. Funny enough, this quirk doesn't apply to analytical thinking or school work, where I do just fine sitting still, but if I want to tell myself a story, I have to get up and get moving.
So if you want to get over writer's block, trying taking a walk. Let your mind float a while and see where it takes you. It should be almost effortless. If you're thinking too hard, it won't work. Just take walk. Shoot some basketball. Go for a run. Take a swim. Whatever. Just don't stare at the void and expect it to give you anything in return.
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