I’m sitting on a patio overlooking the iconic rolling hills and olive groves of southern Tuscany. It’s a stunning view. When I arrived a few weeks ago, I was prepared to hunker down — with ample wine and prosciutto — and let the lavender-scented country air jumpstart my flow of creativity. I came to Italy to write, to be inspired. I assumed the writing position and waited for the words to come, but nothing happened.
My mind was a total blank. This had never happened to me before. You know those days when you wake up and it’s like you’re moving through a web of glue? It was exactly like that. My brain was stuck and all things writing were glue-botomized. The sight of my computer filled me with dread – a weight of overwhelming pressure. I had zero desire to communicate via social media channels. I abandoned twitter and my followers started jumping ship.
One day went by, then another. I increased my caffeine intake from my normal 3-cup stovetop espresso maker to the 9-cup behemoth I use for dinner parties. I was in an overly-caffeinated state of total creative deprivation. There was no denying it, I was consumed by writer’s block. I needed an intervention. This is what I did to get back on track:
5 Steps to Beating a Bad Case of Writer’s Block
1. Consult “the Mentor.”
I have a mentor. She’s a professional writer/super genius/guardian angel and Oracle of All Bloggery whom I deeply admire, who somehow finds the time to dole out helpful, sometimes career-altering advice and endless moral support. I know, I know. In the sometimes-cutthroat world of writing this scenario sounds way too good to be true, I’ve often wondered if she’s an apparition a la Fight Club, but I’ve met her mom, so I’m 99% sure she exists. When the Mentor says “Write,” I write. So, I sent her an email, begging her to tell me to get my s%&# together and put a pen to paper STAT. She said “No way.”
Excuse the crude initialism, but WTF?!
The Mentor’s words of wisdom: “No way. You need to live before you can write. Let your stories come to life while you take a break.”
I was still convinced what I really needed was a good kick in the pants, but when the Mentor says “Jump,” I jump. I begrudgingly shut down my computer, got into my car and drove to the farm next door for a home-cooked lunch.
2. Don’t write.
Initially, it took all my energy not to pry open the computer and stare blankly at the screen. However, I soon realized that the purposeful act of “not writing” is a fantastic creative loophole, absolving the writer from any responsibility to their editorial calendar. By letting myself off the hook, all of the pressure to produce new and exciting material vanished.
It was finally time to have a little fun. I drove with the top down. I headed to Pienza – a UNESCO World Heritage site where the streets smell like cheese – for roasted suckling pig and artisanal gelato. I picked sour cherries from the neighbor’s tree and whipped up a killer cherry-walnut crumble (recipe blog post pending!). I hosted a dinner party with culinarily gifted blogging team, @acooknotmad, making pizza from scratch in my 200-year old wood burning oven. Then there was the Madonna concert in Florence, where I danced all night long. So basically, not too shabby of a break.
3. Write down your dreams.
Maybe it’s a combination of pasta, pizza and wine, but I have crazy dreams here in Italy. Writing down your dreams is perhaps the easiest, least stressful form of writing that exists. It’s also one of my favorite ways to start the day. Something magical happens the moment a dream is transferred to paper; it becomes memorable. I’m able to recall dreams I had back in grade school because they’ve been written down in some unicorn-covered spiral notebook. Plus, it’s fun to go back and read things like, “We jumped through the waterfall to Walmart but the hot dogs weren’t refrigerated.”
4. Log on and Observe.
After a few days of letting yourself off the hook and living the good life, log on to the world of social media as an observer. Read the news, check your favorite blogs and click through photos of people’s pets on Facebook. There’s no pressure to interact. You may even begin to feel inspired.
When you feel that your ready, try responding to what others have written. Leave comments on blog posts and Facebook updates, start dialogues, email your friends. The moment I knew I was ready to write again was when I responded to someone’s Facebook post with a book suggestion. Instead of simply recommending the book, I found myself writing paragraph after descriptive paragraph, arguing the book’s finer points and cultural significance. It was a sign.
I began to write again. The words flowed like freshly harvested olive oil. Tuscany once again became the great, mystical, artistic catalyst thanks to these five simple steps.
So, how do you overcome a bad case of writer’s block?