The Imagery of Possibility by Shan Jeniah

How do you see the place where all your ideas dry up, and there seems no hope of more? What imagery might help you to accept that place, learn it, and begin to move through it?
A well waiting to refill? A puzzle with a missing piece? A mind teaser? A koan intended not to be solved, but felt and pondered? The frozen ground of winter necessary to the renaissance of spring? Something completely different?
I was humming along on my current WIP when my momentum lagged… then crashed to a stop. I couldn’t think, feel, or dream how my characters were ever going to get there from here.
I trudged along for a few days, hoping the words and ideas would flow again. That was a bust. My ideas ran dry. I had nothing to write.
I’ve been there before. Writer’s block. The ghost town of creativity….
That was before I knew how hugely the language and imagery I choose affects my approach to challenges. Through them, I claim ideas, consciously or not. And what I claim frames how I view myself, reality, and my writing.
If I claim writer’s block, I am blocked. Thwarted. Sometimes stopped so cold that I can’t move forward. I exhaust all my tricks, all my energy. Battered and bloodied, vanquished by a wall of frustration – an implacable, concrete enemy reinforced with iron beams and barbed razor wire. When I struggle against it, I end up prostrate in its ominous shadow.
Is it any wonder I can’t find the story?
I experience life most intensely through imagery and emotion. They are the soul of my writing, too. I need to feel, not an obstacle, but a challenge I could grow into. I chose to look at that place as an ebb in the flow – a pause, and nothing more.
I stopped trying to write against the tide. I moved on to other things. I read blogposts, answered comments, and chatted on Facebook. I did a lot of gaming. I watched a lot of television. I played with the kids, did things with Jim, and visited with a dear friend I don’t see as often as I would like.
I didn’t work on the story. I let the stray bits of ideas float by without trying to catch them.
During that time, an image of weaving formed in my mind – with a tangled place that halted the process…

A tangle in the weaving. A sign that something has gone amiss, but not an insurmountable wall of impossibility.

Weaving fascinates me. It appears often in my writing. A major supporting character in the Trueborn Weft Series is a healer who weaves to help heal her broken people. The telerotic bond between my protagonist lovers is woven, over decades, in a dance that eventually creates something new, of them both, yet more and other.
Weaving is a happy image, for me, so I relaxed. I trusted that I would eventually move through the ebb, and the texture and pattern of the tangle would become clear. I would be able to see what had happened, where the smooth run of the pattern began to twist.
I left it as it was, letting my mind wander ahead, and around, to the climactic scene I imagined, and to other stories in the series. I let myself consider cutting the threads and creating something else, or tossing the whole thing out into the yard in the hope that the wildlife could make more use of it than I could!
I stepped away from my loom and its tangled weaving. I gave myself time to rest, to play, to talk, to move my body and mind in other directions. I didn’t rush back. I took hot showers, spent lots of time with loved ones, and allowed my imagination to go where it wanted. I simply lived my life.
After a week or two, I had a desire to revisit the story. I played with ideas and lists for the pending series timeline, then wrote few pages of random notes, then bulleted points for two scenes for the companion fan fiction story. I could feel space and possibility opening up around the tangle, and something indefinable was slipping into place. I found myself feeling the story again – without strain or angst.
I am still feeling my way through, unraveling a bit of the knot here, deciding that this bit won’t ruin the pattern but will add texture, finding that, over there, I like the altered weaving better than what I had planned.
I am learning, yet again, to trust my natural inclinations, and to allow the ebb, daunting as it may seem, to be, because the flow is behind it, deep and sustaining. I’m weaving again, with attention and intention – and I am laying the loom aside, sometimes, to instead weave a basket, a memory, or not weave at all for a bit, because rest and dreaming are important, too.
The tangle is unknotting, in some places. In others, the roughly twisted threads shift the pattern into unexpected, deeper, truth.
For me, it matters how I see and name the ebb. If it is an obstacle, I create struggle. When it is a tangle that can be undone, repurposed, or cast off, I have possibilities and options.
If you are stuck, when you feel your story will never escape alive, consider giving yourself time to name that feeling in a way that creates space for you to see all the possibilities the pause can offer.
 ~*~

11 comments

    1. Jennette –

      One of the reasons I keep lots of projects going at once is so that, if I fall into an ebb with one, I have many other options left, and at least one of them will appeal, and usually fire my imagination again.

      Right now, I’m spending more time writing homeschooling reports than anything else. I get at least 750 new words a day, creatively, on whatever I’m playing with.

      That’s not much, for me. I’m not worried.

      I attended a day of WANACon, and I am taking one class and signed up to begin another next week. I’m in the process of reading seven writing craft books.

      All of this will stir ideas, and, at some point, the words will flow…and they’ll be better words than I would have written, without the pause for new ideas and input.

      I hope this post helps you to relax and be at peace with your lull until it passes, and that you will find the inspiration when the time is right.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. =)

  1. *THIS*
    Yes, renaming the situation helps. I equate this to a similar edict that we must re-frame the stories we tell ourselves about our pasts so that we can live with them more comfortably. Which isn’t to say we should lie to ourselves, so much as question the labels which have been assigned to us by others. It’s all in how we define our lives, our histories, our stories, our labels. Some might argue, “It’s all semantics”. But, oh, how semantics matter when we apply them to ourselves!

  2. Andi-Roo –

    I think the semantics argument is often a straw man. Words do have shadings and meanings and images attached to them, and denying it is a type of unconsciousness.

    In my life as an unschooling parent, one of the first things that helped me was to understand that “teaching” and “learning” are two different processes, and often not connected to one another.

    To me, words matter. Images matter.

    Seeing it only as a space in time, one that will pass more quickly if I am not making it worse by struggling and flailing.

    Thank you for taking the time to comment, and to share this on Twitter. =D

  3. this was really helpful. especially as I experience my stories the same way as a video with an emotional track. I stopped calling it writer’s block a long time ago probably intuiting this very thing. When one story fades I move on to another. But then I end up with dozens of unfinished stories and novels. 90% of them are in the same storyworld that now has a cast of more than 100 covering 7 generations and 120 years. My main issue isn’t with the ideas but in translating those images and emotions into words that convey them adequately. making the shift from writing in a mode like this in which I am talking about the story into the mode in which I’m creating real scenes, that is where i flounder.

    1. Hi, Amy!

      I used to feel a lot of guilt, too…And that was crippling, for me.

      I’m learning to trust that I will find my way back, or move on to something that I feel more drawn to. I’ve realized better how my own mind works.

      It’s better, for me, to go with my flow than to fight the current.

    2. Hi, Joy!

      I know what you mean.

      But I also just read your story, so I know you can really get inside your character, too.

      I like to wait until, in some sense, I am my POV character. Once I get there, writing is more an act of faithful recording.

      Lately, I’ve been writing about some of my scenes before I write them. It helps clear the chatter in my mind and get to the meatier parts.

      Maybe you’re just waiting for that one key that ties it all together.

  4. I’ve been recently thinking that I want to start talking more walks–so that my mind has time to stretch and wander and imagine. I think that will help me through the kinks of my story. Thanks for this great reminder!

    1. Julie,

      We’ve enjoyed unseasonably nice weather, here, the last two days. Yesterday Annalise and I took a short walk, and it felt good.

      Today, I’m going to work out. 20 blessed minutes in the car each way, all alone. Moving and testing my body…My female protagonist is a lot more physical than I am, so that will help me connect with her.

      Thanks for sharing this post on Twitter…you made a sunny day even brighter!

      May your walking be pleasurable and fruitful!

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