Before we dive in, I’d like to say that as writers, both Jei and I understand there is no single method to defeat the ugly monster known as writer’s block. By no stretch of the imagination is this post meant to be a cure-all for that frustration. Instead, we hope you will gain some inspiration and perhaps motivation to conquer that angry little monster that may be blocking your way.
Years ago, while Jei and I were still cultivating a friendship, we found ourselves coming down with what we call “writer’s flu.” With no immediate remedy at hand, a feeling of listlessness began to encroach. Unwilling to accept this sickness lying down, we began to discuss the possible solutions we could employ to punch right through the armor of writer’s block and come out victorious on the other side.
After going over some more complex solutions, we found ourselves staring at the most straightforward yet improbable one of all — write every day! While that decision may be all well and good in theory, writer’s block was settling in and the idea of writing every day seemed just out of reach. It wasn’t until the conversation broached the topic of our previous collaboration did we realize that we had the necessary weapon all along. Each other.
Now don’t go assuming that I mean some sappy romance buoying us over the impossible. I was referring to the fact that our love for writing along with the mutual desire to overcome would give us the support we needed. An agreement was struck and the groundwork was laid for what we lovingly referred to as our “brain scribbles.” We had one simple rule: Exchange one page per day with no restrictions on subject matter. The only other requirement was that the prose go without editing, revision or reviewing. This meant that we would be free from the anxiety of perfectionism.
In the beginning it was a struggle, daunting even. But as we started to hold one another to the commitment we made, writing began to flow. We began to experiment with different genres, as shown below in an excerpt of my first attempt at anything sci-fi or futuristic:
…Rain was nature’s way of cleaning out the gutters of life. It gathers the dirt and mud from rooftops and trees before descending into the ground below. In the City of Paetrax on the other hand, the water droplets did nothing but gather the filth from those higher in the market and descend like on those far below. The silver granite that lined the streets and markets cracked and withered with each new storm and the muddy puddles would fester for days in the darkest corners of the downtrodden.
It is said that one can separate the poor from the rich by simply the color of their boots. The mud covered heels over a poor man never found refuge in clean water so rare in the concrete recesses below. Mud, the once understood nature of both earth and water joining to make a substance that built bricks and held fast dams in days long past, became a derogatory term for those born of lower birth and the lower level of the towering city of Paetrax.
At times it became necessary for those of prestige to descend below and do business with those who preferred the Mud arena of goods. Tonight was one of those nights as the pristine chrome hover car settled down across the street from the rare lit up lights of the Mud sector. It’s slick build and quiet engine made the nearby rust buckets covered in ruddy hues of color look ages older. Despite the splattering dark droplets that descended upon the vehicle the color seemed untouched by some kind of miracle…
And sometimes we just found absolute gems in the verbal sparring of the momentary characters written into that one page. A favorite of mine would have to be Jei’s hilarious exchange of these two bandit men:
…Pushing the dagger away with the toe of his boot, Fahad cast a dubious look toward the other bandits before the swarthy man crouched nearby scouring the blood from his blade with handfuls of sand. “How did you know?” When his friend did not immediately reply and instead began to scrub the blood from his face and hair with even more sand, Fahad abandoned his spot by the corpse of the woman who had nearly killed him with the offer of her body to them in an attempt to buy her life. “How did you know she was lying?”
Rodric scrubbed his hair a moment before pausing long enough to answer in a few short words, though he did not look back toward the carnage that remained of the caravan. “Her lips were moving.”
“Her lips were…” It took a moment for the comment to sink in, but it started Fahad laughing and soon had the others joining in as they moved away to begin picking at the remains of the wagons and bodies…
Our horizons expanded even further as we worked to find better ways to express ourselves vividly through written word. I tried my hand at it with the excerpt below:
…The light was barely cracking over the horizon as the engine of the beaten down car made its way over the hill. It was an eye sore against the beautiful rolling landscape that carried it downwards toward its destination. The glittering white and silver that blanketed the buildings and trees seemed to slowly rustle at the oncoming vehicle. It slowed as it descended, the squealing and swerving biting dark marks into the painting of reality. It did not stop as it continued its motion forward, turning, toppling, twisting and flinging itself free of the confines of the road.
The crunch was only padded so much by the soft fallen flakes that had piled up over the weeks. It was gruesome some would have said, if any were nearby to hear. It begs the question, that fateful saying of if a tree falls with no one to hear it, does it make a sound? The engine slowly echoed its dying breath across the hill side. The mangled assembly of metal and glass looking not unlike a collage of junk put on display and claimed as art…
On more difficult days, we would even exchange art and pictures we found around the web to spark inspiration. One of my favorites is this beautifully haunting picture and the excerpt from the page of writing that followed it:
…”Yeah,” Lee murmured, mesmerized by the flow. It looked almost like liquid mercury, perfectly silver and reflective in color, yet flowing like water. He reached toward his own respirator and then stopped. His mouth hung open in surprise as the liquid began to splash and fall as if it were being poured over something, and as more of the shiny liquid covered the form, it began to take on shape. He heard Lilly gasp somewhere behind him as it formed arms from nothing, and from those arms came hands that guided the liquid over its ‘body’, helping to give it more shape and define its form. Within moments, it began to take on a decidedly feminine, and perhaps even more strangely, human shape.
The two could only watch as the being of liquid metal reached up to brush what appeared to be long, wet hair, from her face and back over her shoulders, before tipping up its chin so that the liquid ran over its features. Reaching up again, it wiped at its newly formed face and turned to face the two of them, the liquid still splashing over its shoulders and back to trail down along its form to give shape to the curves of its legs and hips. It canted its head as it first looked at Lee, and then to Lilly. For their part in all of this, they had managed to back up to the door in equal parts awe and fear…
The writing may be raw, and the stories may never be more than simple one-page bits of creativity, but in the end we found it to be a great exercise and weapon to defend against the “writer’s flu.” We happily continue to utilize this exercise even now when we hit a dry spell, and as a result, we have collected a mountain of potential inspiration to last us for years to come.
What kind of exercises or methods will you use to keep from catching the “Writer’s Flu” this winter? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!