For me, it is not always “writer’s block” that stops my production. Often, it’s just a case of poor concentration because my mind refuses to focus. The brain is half-busy with something else, or the body seeks a way to procrastinate…
A true “block” is when I’ve been writing intensely and am exhausted or just not satisfied with my work. Usually the remedy is a brisk walk outside or doing something that requires a different part of my brain for an hour or two (this is often the only way my house gets cleaned). Being outside and moving around improves my mood and jump-starts new ideas. Solutions percolate below the surface, so I am not always aware that my mind is still working on the writing problem until I return to my computer.
Gardening, or observing the results of gardening, can be restorative. This year, thanks to seeds provided by a nurse who came to my house to give me an insurance physical, I planted Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia). Just as she promised, the Monarch butterflies came, along with many other kinds of butterflies, hummingbirds, finches, and bumblebees.
Another favorite diversion (procrastination?) is testing my memory on what I planted last year. Where is it? Has it spread, or has it died? Will I recognize it if I see it? (Answer: write it down, draw a diagram, and take pictures. Duh! Better luck next year!).
Poor concentration may mean I really don’t want to write, I want to be creative in another realm: painting. Although sometimes I’ve set myself the exercise of creating an image that could be a future book cover, usually what I want is to play with color and shape. Here is a mock cover I did for The House of the Sphinx, and the final cover chosen by the publisher.
I discovered my love for painting when my small children were enrolled in a Saturday morning art class. When I heard that just down the hall, the art school was offering painting for adults (three hours of no demands on me by family or telephone), I jumped at it. Now, painting is a crucial part of my life, and the painting group I found provides a wonderful new set of friends.
Painting refreshes the writing part of my brain so I can go back to the problem that stalled me and discover a solution. The same is true when a painting is not working; I go back to writing for a while, rest my eyes, and return with new ideas. The two activities feed each other.
What do you do when your brain refuses to work?