Zein El-Amine Recommends...

The best advice about being stuck in your writing that I recall is the example that Ray Bradbury gave us: “If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful. I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting. I wake early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping beans. I get out of bed to trap them before they escape.” I find that I can minimize creative blockage by pairing my writing with readings (of stories, novels, poetry, historical fiction) that share the same setting, time period, or tone as the writing at hand. At other times I pick up one of my first drafts and work on editing it until I am compelled by what I am editing and can return to creating from scratch.

I am a storyteller who writes in multiple genres. Some stories are better told in poetry and some in prose. When I get stuck writing a poem, I switch genres and work on my short stories or novel. When inspiration is not flowing in my novel writing I resort to writing in “pearls” which allows me to skip in time to an event that is foremost on my mind, nudging my inspiration back to the original narrative arc. Lastly, since my work is always driven by a political undercurrent, I read historical creative nonfiction to get my creative juices flowing. I usually have to abandon reading mid-sentence because the ideas come rushing through, primed by descriptions of the setting and historical period.
—Zein El-Amine, author of Is This How You Eat a Watermelon? (Radix Media, 2022)  

Photo credit: Jen Lemen