Written By: Yavaria Ryan, Poetry Reader
When I was younger, I had frequent bad dreams of bad people wanting to hurt me. I would wake in shivers, run to my mother’s room, shake her awake, and beg to crawl into her bed because that was the only place that ever felt safe. At the time, we were forbidden to tell stories about our nightmares before dawn because my great-grandmother warned us that it would come true; therefore, I fell into a nightly routine of sleeping, waking in terror, and running to my mother for solace.
I believe I was five when my mother told me to stop it all. Stop the bad dreams, the waking in terror, the running from room to room. She told me the truth about our minds and our imaginations. She looked me in my teary eyes and said, “You know you can change your dreams, right?”
Of course I had no idea what she was talking about. I was five, and the boogeyman was trying to get me. My mother took my hands and said, “When the boogey man appears, turn him into Santa Claus. Make him give you gifts. These are your dreams. You control them, remember?”
I knew she was right about me being able to control my dreams and emotions, but I had no clue how this way of thinking would help shape the way I face my writer’s block.
For me, writer’s block is the boogeyman, and he is one frightening creature. I say, “I am going to write a poem today.” He approaches me with a stern, “No,” and snatches my pencil out of my hand. Sometimes, my writer-blocking boogeyman haunts me for months, forcing me to throw in the towel on whatever poem or story I have been working on. How on earth do I escape this ferocious beast?
Well, I do not escape. I do not run and hide. I do not let my frustrations take over. I do exactly what my mother told me to do when I was five and the boogeyman would chase me in my dreams. I change my course of thinking. I change my plan of action. I go through the backdoor and imagine how funny the boogeyman would be in his underwear. I write around writer’s block.
My writer’s block occurs when I have to say something that I do not want to say. Whether it is a personal event or a situation that hits too close to home, writer’s block has found a way to build a wall that makes me say, “I can’t write this. I have writer’s block. I’ll figure something out later,” but later never comes, and that’s the problem.
In order to combat this situation, journaling has been my best tool. Journaling every day, even when I feel there is nothing to journal about, has helped me overcome writer’s block by showing myself that there is always writing to be done and things to be said. We can always write through writer’s block.
Some of my favorite journaling exercises for writer’s block include beginning sentences with I remember when, I almost forgot the time, and One day I will. These generative sentences provide facile topics that push me to write words, even when my mind staunchly refuses.
Of course, there are many articles with exercises that speak about how to combat our writer-blocking nemesis by changing the scenery, cutting our papers to tiny bits and rearranging them, switching from digital to paper, or simply walking away for a moment, but everyone’s story and writing practice is different.
All I can say for certain is this: my writer’s block is a ferocious boogeyman whom I keep writing around on dirty napkins, over-used notebooks, biology textbooks I have no use for, and limbs I keep scrubbing things off of. Instead of caving into writer’s block, tackle him head on. Show him you are not scared to keep writing and dreaming. Show him you are fearless.