I have a confession to make. I never suffer from writer’s block. *ducks objects hurled by other writers*
I discovered long ago that part of the writing process is not writing. It is doing everything else. It is hanging out the laundry and cleaning up after the cat. It is working in the garden and going to the store. It is paying attention to random encounters, the unexpected, even the ordinary. Noticing the schnauzer and the overturned turtle, the sign peppered with buckshot, the birdsong and the rusted gate.
Cats are like people, and people are like chickens, and politicians over centuries don’t change much. I notice the Queen Ann’s lace as I wash out a pan and think about how it is related to carrots and smells just the same when I pull it up. I sit on the deck and try to think about absolutely nothing while focusing on everything that is happening around me just in that particular moment. What do I hear? Feel? Smell?
Pick up a magazine or newspaper and scan the articles. They seethe with ideas. Look at just one photo, even some ridiculous ad, and connect it to the first thing I see on the next page. The connection might be absurd, but it might be a connection that is totally new, never made before. What does it have to do with what I was last working on? Nothing? Am I sure? Or is there some subtle significance that, when I finally see it, blows my mind?
I sit at my desk at work and a steady stream of people come through the door. Each one is completely unique, and each one has something in common with all the others. What distinguishes them? What sets them apart? What patterns of communication do we humans share, and where is the dividing line between reflexive small talk (Hot today, isn’t it? Have a nice day!) and that unexpected and startling moment when a real person reaches out? (I’m new in town. Just divorced. I caught my ex-husband sleeping with my sister.)
A small child climbs up in a chair when her mother’s back is turned for just a moment, and she falls and bruises her forehead badly. The mother reacts with a lifetime of experiences and instincts colliding with her mood of the moment. This could be something the child remembers the rest of her life, colored by all the events that surround it (Mother never really cared, or, Mother was always there for me.). Every moment of every day and every encounter with every person is filled with connections, puzzles, mysteries and wonders. Draw the line between the points. There is a story there.
Finally I get back to the keyboard. I’m spilling over. I can’t get it down fast enough. It’s like rummaging furiously through endless piles of kaleidoscope scraps, pulling out what I need to stitch the quilt.
Writer’s block? Nonsense. Life is ready to fill the page.