Writing At The Water's Edge
I've mentioned my college professor's advice before, so I won't wander down that worn path again just now. But there is the question of "writer's block." What does one do when the words don't come?
I had the privilege of moderating a panel with the marvelous Cornelia Funke, who was asked about writer's block, to which she replied that she didn't believe it existed. She likened the acquisition of a story as going through a hedge maze, and what some people called "writer's block" was nothing more than having found yourself in a dead end. "Back up and go a different way," she said simply.
Sometimes, I've found that this advice works perfectly on the story you're writing. Sometimes, however, I find that it applies more directly to the life you're living. Where's my head, you should ask? What am I thinking about?
One of my favorite techniques left over from learning about meditation is the practice of visualizing the things that trouble you - picture yourself at the edge of a large body of water. At your feet, beneath the soles of whatever you wear, are countless pebbles, rubbed smooth by years of current and the flow of the water upon the shore. Looking down, you realize that one of the stones - a bright, shining thing - actually seems to have something written on it. Impossible, you think. But you reach down and pick it up. You can feel the coolness of it, the smoothness like wet glass under your fingertips...and yet, you see that it is, in fact, engraved. One word. One, troubling, annoying word - a word that defines the first Other thought that pops into your mind. Work. Home. Money. Whatever. That's the word. See it. Trace it with your fingers. It's not just a stone, it is the embodiment of that word. It represents that thing, is carved out of pure whateverinite that distraction is built of. Feel it. Feel it, cold and heavy in your hand. And then, once you can so completely equate that stone with the distraction which, clearly, forged it.... throw it.
Out into the water, sploosh. Count the ripples...so many ripples... and then..suddenly... no more ripples.
Feel that? Right - you don't. It's gone. Lost beneath the water. but...wait... is something else still weighing on your mind? Well, then, great - because there's another stone by your other foot. And, look, there's a word on it....
Lather... rinse.... repeat....
And before you know it, it's just you. On the shore of a large body of water. At peace.
It is from that emptiness I write. If things are distractions, they vanish beneath the mirrored face of the water, leaving me breathing in the cool sunset breezes.
In that silence... I reach up to the gnarled threads of my story, and let them left me up and away into the tapestry from which they dangle.
Find that pattern for yourself, when you find your work dancing just beyond the reach of your fingertips. Find that pattern and write. And write.