As a writer I've been stuck. Not just a little stuck either. I've been really stuck. There's been a lot of changes in my life lately, and all the noise has edged my creativity away. Like pushing my plate across the table. Nope, I'm too full of all these other things to be able to focus.
Focus is the important word. I feel like I'm five people trying to live in one head. It's been so loud in here.
I've been beyond mere writer's block. I hadn't been able to write, or draw, or blog. I spent hours some days just staring at blank paper. I carried around a notebook to make sure I wasn't just missing my chance to make notes. I tried writing at different times, with different materials, different typewriters, different pens, I even tried writing on the computer. I sat at my desk, in my bedroom, at the dining table, on the porch.
I learned how far I needed to go, and I mean that quite literally. I've figured out how to write when I'm stuck right now, and my trip was noteworthy.
I went out into the middle of the woods. Away from my house, away from chores, away from responsibilities, away from electricity, away from noise, YouTube, Netflix, Facebook, Instagram. Just me and one of my typewriters alone.
At first it was magical. I'm working on a dystopian novel, several actually, and sitting in the solitude of the middle of the woods in a tent was pretty much the perfect way to bring myself into a post-collapse-of-society world. A slow trickle of words found there way on the paper in front of me. I stretched and breathed on my cold fingers as ideas started coming to me. I pulled my stocking cap down tighter and hunched in my coat as dialogue flowed from my fingertips. I jiggled my feet to keep my toes from going completely numb as plot points and story line appeared on the paper in front of me. Why didn't I do this before?
I stopped and went for a walk to loosen my shivering muscles and try to warm up a bit.
Once I'd warmed myself up and had gotten my fill of beautiful fall colors I headed back to the tent I'd set up and sat back down to my writing. The daylight dimmed but I pushed on, even as my glasses fogged with the warmth of my breath as I leaned in to squint at the words in front of me.
I had to light my oil lamp before it was fully dark, I listened to crows cackling as the sun disappeared. Soon the coyotes yipped and howled in the hills around me. Their din had no competition because it was too cold for crickets, frogs, and cicadas to sing an evening song.
I continued writing even after it was so dark I had to hold my lamp up to my paper just to see what I had typed. The steady clacking of the keys kept me from noticing as 'it' crept closer.
A loud crash snapped my head up and froze my fingers on the keys. Footsteps edged closer to my tent as if an enormous lead-footed moth was being drawn to the flame inside.
I thought briefly about calling out, but what if it wasn't just an animal? What if it was a man? I was on my own private property. Anyone willing to be out here was clearly unbothered by the idea of laws. If I made no sound I was nothing but a lump in the light wearing my thick coat, with my long hair tucked in. I could be assumed to be a man. Something that's slightly less frightening to be in the middle of the night with some possible criminal roaming in the darkness. Not that men don't get assaulted, it's just that men are more likely to be seen as dangerous. Obviously even by me. I wasn't particularly afraid of some wild woman covered in mud with leaves in her hair wandering in the night outside my tent. Heck, I'd probably invite her to hang out.
A branch snapped, and more dead leaves were destroyed under the weight of whatever was outside my tent. As if my mind wasn't already racing, my brain picked that exact moment to tap me on the shoulder and remind me that a couple had been found dismembered in a clay pit less than a mile from this location. If the killer had been caught I'd never heard about it.
I looked over and my dog (who had been sleeping tucked under a blanket on his bed in a corner.) was standing at attention next to me. His hair stood out wildly on his shoulders and all the way down his back. He stood in his perfect silence that I think of as 'attack stance.' He worked as security staff at a warehouse I used to work in. He's retired now, but he's still over one hundred pounds of muscular beast, with big teeth, who is tall enough to lay his head on the kitchen table while on all fours.
The sound advanced to within ten yards of the tent and I still couldn't decide if it was the plodding footsteps of a man dragging his feet through the leaves, or a deer, which was not really less dangerous since only thin cloth stretched between us, and mating season had just begun. From my own experience this was the one time of the year deer were more likely to run at you, than away from you. My dog made eye contact then advanced at the wall of the tent barking his warning. My dog has foiled a robbery, possibly two, but has never actually hurt a person. I held up my hand for his silence which he gave me.
The footsteps had their turn to freeze in their tracks. Now all of us were sitting perfectly still waiting to see what the other planned. I was no longer just a possibly-armed-man, but now a large dog had made himself known. This is about the time that I started sending texts to my husband letting him know that if they found my dismembered body in a clay pit; that I love him and the kids very much.
Naturally he assured me he'd be out there as soon as he could.
Five tense minutes later the footsteps started moving away from the tent, which was a relief, but then they began making a large circle around the tent which expunged my sense of relief. I felt like I was being stalked. They eventually made their way back to the south side of the tent where they had started, and we sat again in tense silence. The footsteps moved towards us again and my dog began a growling snarl that made the few hairs that weren't already standing to attention on the back of my neck take notice.
This was too scary for my new acquaintance: Footsteps. I didn't blame Footsteps, I'd have taken off if that the sound was directed at me. Footsteps took off. Not the fast crashing bounce I associate with deer, but a quick enough retreat that I wasn't concerned that Footsteps would be back anytime soon.
By the time my husband arrived I had settled down in bed to read. He stayed the night with me under our pile of blankets and sleeping bag. Footsteps did not return.
I survived until the early morning light lit the tent. I was happily surprised. Since then I've found this a viable option to keep me writing. Thought it is currently too cold for me to sleep over, and just a little too scary.
That's my story about getting past writer's block.
What's the weirdest thing you've ever done to get your inspiration back?
I have an ongoing interest in dystopian fiction, both reading and writing it. I’m a fan of simple living and draw inspiration for my writing from my love of old-fashioned skills and my small hobby farm.
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My first book is available on Amazon