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.