When caught in the tangles of a creative dead end, I resort to the time-tested act of walking. Our bodies are built in such a way that we’re very efficient at walking, allowing most of us to not actively think about how to put one foot in front of the other.
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I’m at the pet store buying dog food and the counter is full of tarantulas. Seven of them, stacked in sturdy plastic bins with airholes punched along the tops, tiny nightmares from some haunted bulk foods department.
I’d like to say I’m a daily writer, but as a working mom, I can’t always make it to the page, and certainly not as my most productive or best self.
When I get stuck these days, the first thing I do is be gentle with myself and stay calm. I remind myself that I had times like these, when I feared I would never write anything again. And sometimes those times were uncomfortably long. But, I wrote again.
“I read an interview with the writer and journalist Lawrence Wright around ten, perhaps fifteen, years ago. Wright was asked what he did when he got ‘knotted up’ during the day, and he said that he would go for a run.
“I tell my creative writing students this: No one can write the story you have inside of you. No one.
“Let’s agree writing is one of many creative art forms, and that everything—from the way someone crosses the street, twirls their hair, rides a subway—can be described as an art. That said, when I’m in a rut I like to get uncomfortable.
“The thing I need to do escapes me. Sit still and write. Get up and move. Prepare the meal and eat it. Consider sentences. Write sentences. Shatter sentences. Live inside an orifice wet with silver. Eliminate caffeine. See acupuncturist. Make a list of gratitude. Sit in the black morning.
“A few years ago, after decades of vigorously producing books in various genres, I lost all desire to write. My first creative passion was drawing and when silence took over, I began filling up notebooks and drawing pads with line drawings.