While writing and revising Stretch Marks, I went through periods where nothing could keep me away from my computer. I would pull out my small notebook and pen, scribbling away while folks tried to reach around my grocery cart for milk, toilet paper, or lemons. I was deaf to the ringing of the phone, ate leftovers or cereal at my desk, and couldn’t follow a conversation to save my life.
Then out of nowhere, a dark cloud descended like a swarm of locusts and ravaged every sentence, word, and idea thriving in my brain. At first I’d station myself at my desk and refuse to budge, writing a sentence, I’d delete hours later. I’d berate myself, pace like a caged animal, and dread that dementia would set in before I finished my book. I’d lie, lie, lie when anyone asked me how the writing was going. I had no qualms about hiding out in my office on glorious sun-drenched weekends to make up for my pitiful weekday performance. I missed parties, breakfast with my girlfriends, and avoided bookstores (envy got the best of me) because I was petrified I’d miss the microscopic moment of inspiration that might spur me back onto the writing track. I was a hopeless mess.
Whenever I read about an author, always a New York Times # 1 bestseller, who dismisses writer’s block, I flip them off and suspect them of having a cadre of researchers and ghost writers at their beck and call. I admire any author who dares admit they have indeed sunk as low as I have and I faithfully try their remedies. I’m not fortunate enough to know any famous authors like Isabel Allende who has commiserated with Annie Lammott over her dry spell or have an Alice B. Toklas like Gertrude Stein at her side cooing and coaxing her “Lovey” to write.
But I do have a stalwart group of lifesavers–my writing group–who believe in me, my story, and my talent. They tread water with me as I bellyache, throw me a line when I cry during my bleakest moments, and hold me above water so we can laugh at the crazy life of a writer.
Some of My Remedies
- Push away from your desk or back away from your laptop. Go on, do it now!
- Call a friend, like I had to, who ordered me to clear my desk, put away my notes, and close the door to my office.
- Read, read, read–no, you aren’t a sloth, you need to recharge and replenish.
- Take a walk. It doesn’t matter where, and preferably walk alone, so you can talk to yourself out loud. I do invite my favorite trio of spirits, my mother and my maternal grandmothers, along who never fail to reassure me.
- Go volunteer.
- Escape and see a movie.
- Surprise your partner and seduce him/her.
- Take a nap, same as # 3.
- Trust, (I know, sorry, but I do live in northern California) in the bizarre process of writing and the words will gradually drip, trickle, and then flow once again.
What’s your tried and true remedy?