In my position as Writer-in-Residence at Richard Hugo House, I field a lot of questions from writers. One common question is this: I haven’t been writing lately and I want to get started again.
An email from a writer phrased it this way, “I don’t feel like it’s writer’s block I’m having. It’s writer’s inertia or aimlessness or lack of structure or something. All I know is that I’m frustrated with not having written any new poetry in a very long time.”
If you are familiar with this feeling, this blog post is for you! These are my suggestions for priming the pump.
1. Start by figuring out what conditions work for you. For example, I started noticing that I was generating my best work at writing circles where I was surrounded by other writers generating. Now, I schedule multiple writing circles for myself during my week. I don’t even try writing at home alone anymore, which relieves a lot of pressure on my personal time.
*Note to readers, if you know of a good adult, writing circle in Seattle, please write it up in the comments section!
2. Shake up your routine. Take a weekend away from Seattle to write poems, stay up late or get up early, watch a movie and then write about a feeling it conjured, do workshops you find in writing books, take 10 min breaks at work and write whatever comes to mind. Define a week as “get back to writing poetry week” and try every single approach. Watch for the one that is working and then mine it as hard as you can.
3. Think back to the time you were creating a lot of poetry and remember the conditions of your life then. Were you in a particular emotional state? Was it a period of change in your life? Is there some other area of your life in which you feel “stuck” that might be stopping your writing now?
4. Go see/hear a reading! Hearing the work of other writers tends to have one of two effects on me: 1.) I will never be that good, I should probably stop writing forever, or 2.) I could totally do that. Now, call me competitive, but both of these feelings can be good for generating work. If you have found a poet who genuinely bowls you over, buy her book, read everything, look for the magician behind the tricks, congratulate yourself on locating a new mentor. If you feel you could give a read just as hot as the reader you saw, start writing and then get to a microphone!
Do whatever you have to do to get writing again and do it immediately. Dr. Wayne Dyer says, “Don’t Die with Your Music Still Inside You.” The amazing thing about writing is that you don’t have to be writing masterpieces to feel the power and joy of writing. You just have to be writing.