Life in a Senior Residence Community is challenging and cherished.

Posts tagged ‘writer’s block’

Progress

I promised myself that during the month of March I’d finish writing the final section of my book. It summarizes the third and final peace walk I joined: in 1988, 200 Soviets came to walk with 150 Americans in the United States.

It’s an easy topic for me to write about because it was an important experience in my life that has largely shaped the person that I am today, and there are many articles to help me with facts and dates.  Still, sometimes I must force myself to write. It’s one thing to report the facts, another to capture the mood, the tensions, the thrills of insight and understanding. I’ve written almost 10,000 words and am not through yet.  There is still time, but I struggle with including my feelings, my opinions, my self without thinking that I am inflating my own image in the text. I cringe at that thought.

Luckily, I have a list of feelings and emotion words. I can scan them and come up with vocabulary to express myself in a moment without resorting to happy, sad or mad. I find it interesting that the “Negative Feelings” list is twice as long as the “Positive Feelings” list which is a third longer than the “Miscellaneous Feelings” list.  What does this say about us?

I will plod along for now, taking my own advice to write for at least 10 minutes a day and get words on the page, attempting to include all of those positive feelings and less of the negative ones.

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Stuck! (part 2)

“I’m stuck! I can’t move!” I shouted to the wall. I had sat and stared at the blank screen for ten minutes — or was it ten hours? —  and couldn’t come up with anything to write for the February 9, 2011, blog post. This is such a defeating experience. It made me feel impotent, stupid, helpless, inept. To know what is needed and not be able to deliver is enough to make me tear my hair and beat my chest. And almost give up. “Forget it! I’m not going to write any more. I’ll try lawn bowling instead.”

So I walked away from the computer, made some tea, sat on the front porch in the sunshine, and recalled what I suggest to participants in the memoir writing workshops. “Think of a topic, or a person, or a time, an experience. Write it in the center of the page and draw a circle around it. Then randomly write any word that comes to mind about it. Be unrepressed, free, scattered, messy. Just write the words, the facts, descriptions, feelings. This is called clustering. If you want to extend the clustering, you can connect other words to the clustered words and then you are webbing. I think we learned this is seventh grade, but I had forgotten it until recently. It works. You’ll be able to write.”

Instead of clustering, I listed things about which I feel passionate. My grandchildren and their parents, the garden, warm winter days, the new moon, the Corian counters I recently. I stroke them as I would a cat, they are so perfect. I feel passionately grateful for my good health and working joints. Happy I can walk easily with fluidity. I could write about any one of these.

Another recourse is the book, To Our Children’s Children by Bob Greene, available on Amazon. It as 211 pages of story starters.

On Feb 9, I wrote that I couldn’t think of what to write and rambled around until I hit on what was muddling my mind: a friend’s husband had died and I was grieving for her. That was what I felt passionate about that day.

Stuck!

I’m stalled, stuck, stopped. This doesn’t usually happen. When participants in the Memoir Writing Workshops ask, “What happens if you can’t think of anything to write, “ I blithely advise, “So write about that. Write about not being able to write. If you don’t want to write that, write about something you feel passionate about.”  And so, as an example of how to combat writer’s block, here I go!

I feel passionate about a lot of things. My grandchildren and their parents, the garden, warm winter days, the new moon, the Corian counters installed in December. I stroke them as I would a cat; they are so perfect. I feel passionately grateful for my good health and working joints. Happy I can walk easily with fluidity.

Maybe that’s why I’m stuck: health, having it and not having it. Sunday I visited a friend who was sitting by her husband in the hospital. He had various tubes running into and out of him. He breathed forced oxygen. He had lost so much weight, only his frame was there, under the sheets. He seemed to be sleeping, full of pain medicine and sedatives, breathing in and out, in and out behind the oxygen mask that covered half his face, and to me looked uncomfortable. His wife and I sat and chatted and drank tea. She seemed resigned to the fate of her husband. “Tomorrow the oxygen mask will be removed and he’ll have a reduced oxygen flow through tubes in his nose. He doesn’t want that oxygen mask,” She said. “This morning he tried to rip it off. He says he doesn’t want to go on living like this.” She seemed so brave.

This morning, my friend called, “I hope I’m not calling too early. Are you awake?” I was. “Yesterday afternoon, he died. It was peaceful. Do you want to know what his last words were?

“Yes,” I said, “tell me.”

“He held my hand and asked, ‘Who won the Super Bowl?’”

This is an example of a first draft when we don’t know what we will write about. First the admission of “I don’t know.” Then noodling around until something clicks. And finally writing it. The piece looks disjointed – because it is! It’s a process on paper (or for some, on the screen).

The second draft might focus on writer’s block only. Or solving writer’s block. Or go directly to the story of my friend’s husband. The second and third drafts would be more focused, more detailed, more sensate. To demonstrate, I’ll rewrite this for my next post.

Meanwhile, I’d love to hear about your own struggles and solutions with writer’s block.

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