“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” ― John Lubbock, The Use Of Life
Writer’s block isn’t caused simply by the absence of ideas. Sometimes it may be caused by a multitude of ideas and the inability to expand upon or commit to any one of them. Other times it may be caused by lack of motivation to revise, fear of public judgement concerning the story as a whole, inability to see the next step of the plot, concern for possible mistakes in the course of your storyline, and boredom with your characters. These are just a few issues that cause literary paralysis among writers, and for many of us, these concerns become stressful and even harmful to our confidence as writers.
Though it is essential to fight through those periods of non-productivity, it is also essential to take a step back and breathe, for the sake of your writing, and for the sake of your sanity.
I believe it may actually be worse to force yourself to come up with ideas than to come up with them naturally and in due time. In several cases, forcing your way through a frustrating mental state might (and most likely will) increase stress. And to be truthful, the end results may seem unsatisfactory in the end. It’s like being stuck in traffic. You think you’ve found a way to go around or altogether avoid the vehicular congestion on your preferred route home, only to discover that all streets, freeways, and highways towards your destination are also congested. A rush hour that lasts days, weeks, and even months.
So I say, take a load off!
The length of an appropriate resting period is your choice as a writer. No one knows yourself better than you do. But take this time to settle your mind. I’ve found that many instances of inspiration occur during moments of inactivity (creative inactivity, that is). Like when you’re walking in the park and spot a father teaching his son how to swing a bat for the first time and you begin to imagine the various scenarios that have led up to and follow after that particular moment in time. Or when you’re relaxing in a bookstore with a good book and a grande sized Americano, and you catch snippets of a conversation between a pair of preteen girls sitting nearby who whisper conspiratorially about the girl in third period who has a crush on the same boy that one of them has as well. These are stories to be explored, expanded upon, fervently reimagined, and given life in a whole new context created by you.
“Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.” — Mary Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now
These moments, unsought after and unpredictable, are the moments in which inspiration and creativity is renewed. So, give yourself a break. Listen and observe your surroundings, taste something new and familiar, give yourself over to the aromas that envelop you as you walk along. And most importantly, read a book. Books are an infinite source of inspiration to all writers. Time to give yourself over to someone else’s world for a change.
There is much to be gained while resting, so don’t be ashamed when you feel that you just can’t write a single word and need time away from that Microsoft document. It’s a natural feeling and should be dealt with in the healthiest way possible.
My only warning is to avoid a permanent break. I know at times it seems as if nothing comes to mind while you are resting, but something always comes to mind. You just don’t realize it yet, or you purposefully dismiss that whisper of a thought, believing it has no endgame or grand finale.
And if it helps, carry around a notebook wherever you go. Scribble down those moments in the park or in the bookstore, anything that makes your heart race or gives you a moment of pause. There are several ways to remedy your writer’s block; this is only one of them. If you find that forcing yourself to sit at your computer (or journal or typewriter, whatever floats your boat) and working through your writer’s block doesn’t seem to produce many results, I encourage you to take the time to rest and nurture your mind.
And when you get even the slightest urge to write, do it.