Monday, November 19, 2012
On using your original source of imagination to overcome writer's block
There are times when your imagination runs dry. It could be from overwork or stress of another sort. It could be that you are simply tired. Unfortunately, such times can coincide with when you need to come up with a new story, new piece of art or new song. Sometimes the pressure of having to come up with a complete idea or at least the basis of all the ideas to come in one fell swoop is enough to have the imagination stalling in a form of shock.
There's plenty of solutions available for what's called writer's block, with advice from going on a run to taking a boat trip. All are valid and many will get you the result you want. There is, however, a difference between a forced idea such as one found in a newspaper article and one fresh from your own imaginings and insights. The difference is realised as something so insubstantial as a sense of playfulness or freedom. Normally you'd think these elements to any form of art wouldn't be so important when art can be made quite well without them. But I suppose it is fairly safe to say that the difference between good and great art and writing comes down to these insubstantial elements.
So, if you've got yourself a case of writer's block and you're looking to overcome it you can take that boat trip and observe those around you or read the newspaper and pull out interesting stories. There is a chance you will pick just the right story and a sense of play falls upon you before you even pick up a pen or brush. Or you can find your original source, or form, of imagination and apply it to whatever is currently concerning you.
When you were a child you would have tried all sorts of artistic things, whether you knew it or not. You may have had a paintbrush handed to you by a frustrated play school teacher who just wanted you to waste some time and time waste you did with great joy. You may have loved playing with sand or sloshing water about in whatever pattern you preferred. You may have formed imaginary friends and held tea parties or you may have excelled at building Paddle Pop stick (ice blocks for those who don't know about Paddle Pops) weapons to throw at your siblings. There was something you did as a child that at first was just fun but then became a bit of a skill or identifier.
For example, I was the child who did such a thing as imagine two large and patterned rocks as car parks or mines and run my matchbox cars over them while imagining scenes. My sister was the child who would skip about the back yard collecting leaves in a basket while singing to herself or her imaginary friend (we were never sure). My brother was the one who loved to make himself into a crocodile at the pool and chase his sisters about, snapping his hand/arm jaws the entire time. All of us excelled in various types of backyard warfare.
These times flew by rather quickly but they are lasting memories of who we are. These were things we did that identified us. You couldn't swap them around easily. There was no way I had an imaginary friend but I was definitely one for imagining large scenes. And while I tried on the crocodile form it was really best suited to my brother. These activities reflected the wells of imagination and interest that were originally there. People, places, dramas, big scenes, strange animals, playful human interactions. Of all the things you did as a child, there has to be something that spells you or holds much of what you were as a child. And it is that which you could easily draw on to create playfully.
Having an imaginary friend means you're deeply interested in both others and yourself on a close scale. You like relationships and don't like being alone much. Or at least you didn't when a child. Being creative now, you might have departed from focusing on relationships and people to things like politics or social issues. It seems like the two should be the same but what's happened is you've skipped from having imaginary friends to having imaginary scenes. It would be like my sister trying to be me and it would work out just as well as my time trying to be the crocodile. You could do it, with effort, but it won't feel altogether natural. Skipping back to creating close relationships may make you think you will have to give up on wider issues but this is false. Don't forget about microcosm viewpoints on macrocosm issues.
In all, to solve writer's block, a lag in inspiration or the desire to create just look to your past. Find what it was to be you back then and incorporate it into the work that is a reflection of you now. You can still be smart and insightful, cutting edge or old school with a twist, but with the addition of some original interests there is a greater chance your final work will include some of that all important playfulness and sense of freedom.