A few years ago, while on my evening train home to the Chicago suburbs, I listened to a Ted Talk podcast hosted by Guy Raz. The episode told a story about Sting, one of the most prolific song writers and how, one day, he inexplicably lost his power to write.
I was riveted by the story because at that point, that was me. Like a blocked chakra, I could not write poetry or music, something I had been doing since I was in fifth or sixth grade.
Like Sting, I wondered if I would ever write a song again.
I am not sure what caused the block, but my best guess is my job. I was very consumed with my work and I did not know how to let the office go when I got home. Between my actual work and the length of my commute, by the time I was home and had dinner, I was ready for bed or, at the very least, let my brain shut off. For years, my guitar sat in a closet unused.
After several years, my job changed and I was able to work out of an office that was much closer to home making my commute nearly non-existent. I noticed an immediate change in my disposition. For the first time in years, I had more time in the evenings to enjoy my hobbies.
I made two changes that really helped me gain the confidence I had lost over the years.
Instead of trying to write all new material, what got my creative juices flowing was revisiting old material. Songs I had not completed or lyrics that had always bothered me, but I didn’t know how to fix them. I allowed myself the time to sit on the words, not rushing to complete the task. Trying my best to paint a picture.
The other exercise I did was start writing a novel. Normally, I would not think this to be a good idea when one has been out of practice so long, but I think the beauty in writing an expanded piece is how different it is from writing a few short stanzas. Short poems are likely to be more gratifying, they do not take as much time, but it can also be very frustrating when things to not come together the way you would like them to. I like that writing a novel uses different techniques. When I am exhausted and burned out by a song, I continue to practice my writing through other means, the exercise stretching different writing “muscles.”
As I continue to work on my writing, I often find myself sitting in my head. I find truths about myself and about my craft that I would like to remember as I continue my projects. I have decided to add blogging to my list of exercises. Journaling allows me to document my process, to examine what needs work, to share my successes. A reminder that this art takes time, work, and, dare I say, discipline (which I do not have). I am thankful for other writers who blog and tweet about their experience because most times, I find that I am not alone in my struggles. I am reminded that writing is difficult. Even the prolific writers have strategies to combat bumps such as writers block and lack of discipline.
I hope to share my experiences as well as glean other writers.