Beyond The Empty Page

Posted on July 24, 2012


It’s like someone has bombed my cranial cavity. That’s what it’s like to have a writer’s block. It’s frustrating. You stare at a blank computer screen expecting it to begin a conversation and all you get in return is a periodic reminder that software updates are now available – not flash bulletins that your favourite shoe store is having a half-price sale. No, just software updates. Great.

Writer’s block is like a big empty bubble.

At times like this, I try going back to the basics of writing classes, pulling out prompts and writing exercises in an attempt to revive the remaining grey matter between my ears. It’s as if the neurologist is in the room with me, electro-paddles at the ready. Whoompf! A sentence or two blurts on the paper, then nothing, like flat-lining. Another prompt –whoompf! (This is not looking very promising…)

There’s plenty of entertaining websites I’ve bookmarked, so I next head to my Favourites for an intermission from my distress. Just like a bad, late-night temptation to watch the Shopping Channel, I scan a couple of on-line shopping outlets and discover a clearance deal too good to pass up. Before I know it, I have purchased yet another handbag and a voucher for a skin cream. I guess I am destined to have smooth, radiant skin and a kick-ass satchel, but not a completed writing assignment. Great.

Perhaps nutrition is the key to unlocking creativity. A check in the pantry confirms my procrastination about grocery shopping. Oriental soup noodles in a bag are just not going to cut it. Maybe the package of rice cakes (aka Styrofoam with added fibre) will boost things. I begin to wonder if an old container of cat crunchies (supposedly balanced with proper nutrients) might suffice. I settle on making a baked potato from a specimen that I think winked at me before it was popped into the microwave. (You can always count on a carbohydrate fix to get those creative juices flowing.) Unfortunately, still no brilliant literary revelations were coming to me.

Another tool I have used in the past, motivations for writers, is the next on my checklist in trying to jump-start my cerebral network. I read: “Keep your issue fresh and shiny.” I think: “I need to give my car a bath.” Another one: “Good planning eliminates many potential snags.” I think: “I really should get some groceries in this place!” Apparently I hadn’t got to “my happy place” yet – and that was making me unequivocally unhappy.

With middle age, I have come to an understanding about being forgetful (really?). It routinely gives people around me a chuckle when I can’t remember where I put the lists I make so that I won’t forget things. That silliness usually doesn’t last long, but writer’s block can. Analysts suggest that people “empty the mind”, like meditation, in order to relax. Apparently, I can empty my mind pretty easily – for long periods of time in fact.

It’s all thumbs up with a vacation around the corner.

Finally the epiphany happened. I realized I was working on things too persistently. All the steps I had tried (exercises, shopping, food, inspiration and relaxation) needed to be bundled up into a vacation. Now if I can only convince the editor to allow me to delay the article for a couple of weeks, I should be good to go again. No more empty pages.