Can’t Write?

24 Nov

August 20th 2008 - Inspiration pt3

Muse, oh Muse, where are you?
I have books and blogs to get through.
Outside the shivering wind is cold,
but within the fire warms my toes,
as I sit here staring, trying to create anew.


When you’re sitting staring at an empty screen, writing anything is better than writing nothing. Personally, sometimes, I like to write bad poetry. I have very little to judge good or bad poetry against mind you, I just accept that I write bad poetry and move on.

My tools are grammar, punctuation, plot and character, not meter and rhyme and ancient erudite references. I read, a lot, but I don’t read poetry. This is the primary reason I know that my poetry is poor – I don’t read poetry. You can never write that which you do not read. (I’ve been practicing making up/writing aphorisms lately, how was that?)

But it doesn’t matter. I’m not trying to be a great Canadian poet. I love writing bad poetry – no constraints, no rules to reign in creativity, no worries about what anyone else will think. (I’ll tell you what to think if it helps: That poem up there, at the beginning of this post? It’s bad. It’s just a start of course, but it’s even a bad start.)

But the point is that it doesn’t matter. The point is: I broke 5 minutes of starting at a blank screen trying to write my NaNoWriMo novel, by writing one line that quickly turned into two and then turned into a small (bad) poem, which then turned into this respectable blog post regarding Methods to Stop Writers Block.

I’m going to start this paragraph, the 3rd in a row, with the same comment as the previous 2, to ensure it sticks: The fact that I write poems poorly JUST. DOESN’T. MATTER. When you need to start writing and you can’t, just write something. Stop trying so hard to write what you need to write, and write something. Open the door for your muse to come inside, it’s cold out there so let her get warmed up, give her some coffee, let her get settled, THEN return to what YOU wanted to write, you egotist.

Look away from the subject you are trying to drive towards, and take a short trip elsewhere. Write something else. A note, an email, a tweet, a shopping list.

Just write.

I love writing. I love writing poetry and prose. I love jotting notes on post-its, in journals and even, occasionally, on the palms of my hands. I don’t often run into writers block but I have found the easiest, and often only, way to get back on track is to return to a ‘happy writing place’. For me, that is occasionally bad poetry, with it’s little bundles of prose and the need to engage the brain to think laterally for rhymes and references and words on a finite scale.

You don’t have to write poetry to overcome Writers Block of course, but you do need to find some writing chore that engages your muse on a small scale. If you don’t you are just a hack. Writers write. Every day. Not when the muses are nice enough to stop by for tea. You can’t wait for ‘the call’, although on those occasions when the lightening does strike, write like you are holding the last pencil on earth, you have to write every day.

So make it easier on yourself when you can’t think of the next thing to say and do some prose-aic calisthenics (see what I just did there?) After all, you wouldn’t start jogging without warming up your legs, so don’t start writing without warming up your brains – yes, all of them.

Your muse will thank you for it.


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  1. Join A Writers Group | Prefect Writing

    December 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    [...] (a completely subjective definition of course, especially in the world of poetry) and I like to write bad poetry, but I don’t particularly understand most modern poetry. It gets too abstract for me, I think [...]