Sweet Thoughts and Writer’s Block

One day, recently, as I stared at my computer screen with a bad case of writer’s block, my husband came in from work. My office is next to the entryway, so from where I sat, laptop on its tray, and the tray over my lap, I asked about his day.  

“Good. I brought you a flower,” were his first words.

“Oh? What’s the occasion,” I asked, somewhat baffled.

My husband is a real romantic in his own way, and he knows chocolate and flowers are NOT at the top of my ‘want’ list. (I know, some of you are shaking your head wondering why I don’t want chocolate). But notice he said “brought” and not “bought.”

“No occasion,” came his reply, as he took off his work boots dropped them at the bottom of the closet. “Maybe I’m kissing up for something.”

I could hear him smile. “And for what might that be,” I chuckled.

“I don’t know yet.”

Okay, he wouldn’t tell me why he brought me a flower (he always gets them in bunches), and I needed to see what he was up to. And I needed to see this flower.

I moved my laptop tray, and stepped out of my office. Then my mouth dropped. This was priceless. There, on the bench next to him, was a huge piece of cake, with a large rose made of frosting.

cake

“It’s pink too, and a corner piece.” he added, a proud look on his face. Pink is my favourite color and I love the icing. The sweeter, the better. Usually!

The occasion? My husband’s co-worker had retired and they’d held a small go-away party for her in the office.

“The cake,” my husband went on to tell me, “had two large flowers like this one. The other one was white.”

My guy is a keeper. Very romantic in his own way and I love it when he does these small, random acts of kindness. But little did he know, in the process, he’d help me with two things.

First, this gave me an idea for today’s blog post. So I hurried to get the camera and took a picture of the cake.

Second, after eating part of it (trust me, it took a lot of willpower for me to stop, I could have eaten all of it), I returned to my little office, put the tray back on my lap, and I let my fingers do the typing.

Pheasant

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting the sugar rush unlocked writer’s block, nor am I saying everyone should eat a piece of cake when the ideas stop flowing, and words won’t come. But for me, simply walking away from the computer, even for a short while, helps. Spending a few minutes talking with my husband, or looking at the pheasant outside my window now and then can trigger ideas. For those who may be wondering, I live in the city, closer to downtown actually, yet we see this guy (and a bunch of ducks) around our property all the time.

What do you do when you get writer’s block? Please share what works for you.  

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26 thoughts on “Sweet Thoughts and Writer’s Block

  1. That’s exactly why I designed Pen Help! To help with that staring at the computer screen feeling! 🙂 Thanks for sharing, that cake looks yummy. (I would have eaten the whole thing.)

  2. Interesting article, Renee. Here are some of my own cures.

    1. Exercise. Yes, there’s nothing like the flow of oxygen to the brain to get the creativity juices going, while you’re at it, observe your surroundings and make observations on all you see, hear, smell and touch. Nature hikes and visits to places like zoos and museums are especially good for this.

    2. Change of surroundings. For example, go out to dinner all on your own and bring a diary with you as you wait for your meal to come. Take a look at the people at the tables around you and imagine conversations among the groups. Take note. if you hear, by accident, or casually catch snatches of words, go ahead and use them. But do not eavesdrop, because that is an invasion of privacy. Notice the food and how it looks, smells and tastes. Interact a bit with the waiter/waitress who speaks to you and tends to your needs. Maybe there’s some interesting feature about them. I once was waited on by a server in a restaurant who remembered what I wanted so accurately he needed no pencil or paper to take it. Another woman who served me told me a story about a customer who had to have everything “just so, and made a personal visit to see to her own meal. I call that my “fresh fish” story. And as it was my birthday, two waitresses who brought my cake had such perfect pitch in harmonizing “Happy Birthday” I had to tip them. They could sing. Nice character feature.

    3. Music. For some reason classical music fires my imagination like nothing else when I am composing descriptions or a scenario.

    4. People. Talk to different types of people, and observe them. They could prove inspirational for your next dramatis personae

    5. Believe it or not, audiobooks. Listening to the narrative and the narrator and all the cadences of the written word read aloud can open up one’s own mental stories as well.

    6. Dreams. Keep a dream journal. Some of the best stories came from those nighttime narratives. Note, both Stephenie Meyer and Mary Shelley were inspired this way.

    7. TV programs. Like audiobooks, they can open up the flow of our own stories as we watch the patterns of dialogue and actions on various television episodes.

    • Thank you so much for the reply Lisa. I’m so glad you dropped in. These are great ways to unlock the brain and get the ideas flowing again. I’ll have to try a few of these when that happens again.

      Blessings, Renee-Ann <

  3. I don’t usually have writer’s block, but if I do occasionally, I like to light a candle, put a favorite CD in and sit in my recliner for a short time. Sometimes, that results in a quick nap, but usually, it gives me a chance to sort out my jumbled up thoughts.

    • Hi Gloria, and thanks. I like the idea of a scented candle and music. So relaxing. I’ve never tried it for writers block, though. Might have to. 🙂

      Blessings, Renee-Ann <

  4. I love the way you conquer writer’s block with the help of your sweet husband. When I have writer’s block it helps me to find a comfortable place away from my computer. I close my eyes and imagine the scene I’m writing. Soon the words enter and take over and I’m ready to get up and write. Thanks for your lovely post.

    • Thanks Pam. wow, we’re getting some great ideas. Mu husband is a great help to me too. He’s helped me a lot with Stella’s Plea.

      Blessings to you, Renee-Ann <

  5. Exercise or cleaning the house helps me. I guess it is the act of getting away from the computer and doing something physical. I think my mind continues to work even though my focus is on doing the laundry or washing the dishes. But I could be talked into trying the sweet cake method!

    • Thanks so much Rebecca. Yes the act of getting away does help big time. I feel the longer I stare at the screen, the longer I’m stuck. The sweet cake method? I don’t recommend. Yes it help with the brain but not so much with the waist. :O

      Blessings, Renee-Ann <

  6. If I feel stuck, and then I pull out my structured outline for brainstorming and work through that. By brainstorming or reading writing books, it stirs up ideas and then I go from there. Alternatively I will pick three random words from the dictionary and write a short story from that just to get the writing flowing.

    • Good day, JRose. I must agree, brainstorming is always a great way to get the mind going. I also love your idea of prompts from the dictionary. Writing something else does get writing flowing and who knows, whatever tidbit you write from these prompts might end up in the story you were working on.

      Thanks so much. Blessings, Renee-Ann <

  7. I’m fortunate to live in a country where I can get an hour long foot massage for $5. I can’t sleep because someone’s touching my feet, and I can’t get up and wander to the fridge or the cookie jar, or check facebook. I just have to sit and relax for an hour, and think about the project I’m working on. By the time I’m done, I’ve usually resolved a few sticky plot points.

    • Good morning Janice. $5 an hour??? Can you please make me an appointment for Monday at 9:30 a.m.? Wow… what a way to just “kick back” and relax. I’ll have to call on my masseuse (that’s my husband!) to work his magic on my feet.

      Thanks a bunch for the great idea. Blessings to you. Renee-Ann <

  8. Great post, Renee-Ann. You are very right. Walking away does help to clear your mind. Between drafts for It’s Murder, My Son, the first installment in my Mac Faraday Mysteries, I had writers block for a full year, during which I stared at my laptop and search the internet in hopes of inspiration. I had the book written, but I couldn’t even do the editing of it.

    Then I gave up writing and walked away. Within a month I was back. I found the cure for writers block in this advice offered by American poet William Stafford:

    “There is no such thing as writer’s block for writers whose standards are low enough.”

    What? I’m supposed to write junk? Can you be serious? No, what Stafford meant was that usually, writer’s block is rooted in putting so much pressure on yourself to write greatness that your brain freezes and you become paralyzed with fear.

    When I walked away and took the pressure off myself, and decided, damn the publishers and literary agents, I’m writing what I like and publishing independently. Then my writers block went away. It’s Murder, My Son became my most successful book. I haven’t had writer’s block since.

    Now, TIME BLOCK–not having enough time to get it all down–that’s another issue all together.

    • Good evening, Lauren, and thank you so much for your comment.

      So true, our standards are too high, thus putting way too much pressure on us. I, for one, am a perfectionist. If it weren’t for Aidan, my grandson, I may have never published Stella’s Plea. He was sitting on my lap when I pointed the mouse to the Smashwords PUBLISH button. But I hesitated. I was scared – correction – petrified it wasn’t perfect. What if I’d missed/forgotten something? All sorts of “what if” questions were going through my head. My standard, as Stafford says so well, weren’t low enough.

      In the meantime, Aidan was tapping on my gel pad with his little hands when, by fluke, he hit the spacebar. This clicked on the publish button. Imagine my surprise when I received an email from Smashwords saying Congratulations, you have published your novel. I’ve learned from that first novel to:
      – walk away from the computer when the ideas don’t come,
      – to give myself some slack when I’m being too hard on myself,
      – and most of all, to have fun.

      Writing is very hard work. We must learn to have fun with it.

      Thanks again, and blessings, Renee-Ann <

  9. I have never had it yet. I have way too much of an overactive imagination. But when I’m tired of writing I take a few days off or weeks. Then It feels fresh when I go back and I get better ideas.
    Theresa.

    • Thanks Theresa. Everyone seems to agree that ‘time off’ (whether we’re talking minutes, hours or days) is helpful. But it’s awesome to read what others do. Music, TV, audio-books. And even a large piece of cake. :O

      I like how this blog post started with a piece of cake, and ended up with cures for writer’s block.

      Blessings, Renee-Ann <

  10. Your husband sounds like a definite keeper, Renee-Ann. I agree about walking away sometimes to avoid writer’s block. It’s like trying to remember a person’s name or something else we KNOW we know–the harder we try, the more it hides. One of the tricks I’ve used is to go somewhere like the shower or bathtub, or go out for a walk, and then gradually start thinking about my characters or their situation. Ideas usually flow. To guarantee they will, I can make sure I have no paper or writing tools to capture them 🙂

    • Thanks for dropping by, and sharing your ideas, Janet.

      You’re right on all counts. Hubby is definitely a keeper 😀 And hes, walking away helps writers block. I also like your idea of a shower or bath (I love a nice long soak). How often do we hear people say they take a nice hot/long shower to clear their mind, so it only stands to reason it would help with a block too.

      This maybe a strange analogy but I see this like doing a “disk defragmentation” on our computer. It puts the scattered pieces where they belong. Same thing with the hot shower, it clears the jumble in the brain and brings everything back into focus.

      Blessings, Renee-Ann <

  11. I pull out my tooth by the bare hands.
    In other words I keep writing. I have never the problem “I don’t know what to write”. I have constantly up to 10 ideas in the queue and if I have no other idea I write my SF novel which I’m not ever going to publish.
    Sometimes my brain is just playing with me claiming he is not in the mood.
    But I don’t care. Writers write.

    • Good morning Michal. I’m so glad you dropped by.
      It’s great you’re able to keep writing and I like the idea of having another WIP to work with if/when stuck on the current work. I can’t say I have 10 ideas in queue at the moment but I do have more than one. Hopefully, I can ‘feed’ off of these if/when I get stuck.
      This said, time to close email/explorer and start writing. It’s my day off and today, I’m doing nothing but write, write, write. Thank you so much for your idea.
      Blessings, Renee-Ann <
      P.S. I just heard the mailman on my doorstep and I'm not even going to check what's in there!

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