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Writer’s block of ice cream sandwich board room

They say that the cure for writer’s block is to simply sit down, put pen to paper and go—no overthinking, no thinking at all, really. Stream of consciousness writing, however, I still find difficult. It takes a lot for me to just shut off my brain like that. I continue to judge, feel the need to edit and plan. The same way that there are few things I like better in the world than taking a really long walk, but find it tedious and nearly impossible without a destination in mind, no matter how arbitrary it may be, writing for no reason whatsoever eludes me.

Flipping through an old journal of mine, I came across a page that was fully filled, margin to margin, in words that didn’t seem to make sense, at first. Nevermind that my handwriting was more terrible than it usually is (though, I had an excuse for myself as emblazoned across the top of the page was, “this train is really bumpy.”), there didn’t seem to be any discernible narrative of any sort. It took me a second, but I realized I’d come across an old word game I used to play with myself when I wanted to write, but couldn’t actually think of anything to say. It’s never actual words themselves, but the putting them together in cohesive and sensible structure that’s the trick, so that’s all I’d focus on—words that go together. It got fun creating longer and longer strings of words that could connect to the one before, growing more challenging as I tried to make myself not repeat word pairings and phrases as I went along.

I remember this pack in particular being one of my favorites, if only for the sheer length I managed to make it (though I notice that I did repeat cookie -> monster…):

Coffee pot sticker book store room to breathe easy does it girl talk radio wave runner’s high dive bomb shell shock treatment center stage coach class act two step father time check please and thank you for not smoking jacket potato soup kitchen staff only entrance hall pass play nice guys finish last chance card game ball bearing to the right hand man to man combat zone ordinance paper plane captain hook and eye doctor patient confidential(ity) file away we go big or go home base line dance class A plus sign language barrier reef dive bar tender is the night light as a feather pillow mint chocolate chip cookie monster truck stop sign in sheet rock star power button mushroom cloud cover story book mark my word of the day break out post office building block party clown car park bench warm(er) and fuzzy navel orange juice box turtle neck of the woods men folk music collection plate glass house guest room to breathe easy street smart cookie monster mash(ed) potato chip off the old block letter box top hat stand up straight shooting star of stage and screen test run like the wind tunnel vision impaired judgment day trip wire tap dance off the record player of the year book worm hole in the wall flower girl scout around the bend in the road block schedule(ing) conflict of interest rate we’re going strong hold the phone numbers game day shift work of art studio apartment hunting season of giving tree of life or death card stock room mate for life lesson plan

I’m ever fascinated with words and the different ways a single one can be perceived. It’s no secret that word games—crossword puzzles, word searches, jumbles—are so popular. It’s just fun to play with words and this sort of interconnected flow that I found myself resorting to when the ideas weren’t coming served the perfect antidote to my stream of consciousness + thinking/purpose problem. Afterwards, the result is not only kind of funny to read aloud, but it also opens up the possibilities for inspiration and use. I mean, come on—a clown car park? A street smart cookie monster? A paper plane captain? If afterwards, I couldn’t find some sort of jumping point, then maybe I never really had the drive to do it in the first place.

How do you keep yourself writing when there doesn’t seem to be anything to say? Any fun word games I could try?

6 Responses to Writer’s block of ice cream sandwich board room

  1. Dara says:

    I don’t have any word games that are fun like that. For me, I find that music inspires me more than anything. Stream of consciousness writing is extremely hard for me too–it’s hard to turn off the inner editor. But I’ve also found that it’s easier for me to just write when I’m participating in a “word war” or if I’m writing with others (either virtually or in person at a coffee shop or bookstore). Not sure why that’s the case, but a lot of good ideas actually come from those sessions.

  2. Rowenna says:

    I sometimes like to play with words–see how many words I can pick to describe something like “snow” or a certain tree, or open a thesaurus and rediscover words and uses for words I’d forgotten. Did I mention that I enjoyed studying the vocab for the GRE? Seeing all the ways words can be used inspires me!

  3. Bethany Neal says:

    I usually have to get up and leave the house for some mundane task like getting milk or going to the post office to remind myself that writing is beyond fabulous in contrast to the boring old errands the real world presents. Once I realize what I’d be doing if I wasn’t writing it’s all I want to do.

    But this word game is my new stuck-taxing-on-a-plane activity. :)

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  5. Donn says:

    That “coffee pot” thing is hilarious! Greatstuff.

    I think I prefer games like that, that involve associations and playing with meaning and inspired tomfoolery, rather than games that involve dictionaries or counting up the number of letters or such.

    Two very different types of ‘word games’ really.

  6. What a great idea. Thanks for this trick…My latest plan to outwit the big stupid editor that resides in my head? I grab my laptop first thing in the morning, before I really wake up, and start writing from where I left off the day before. It seems to work best if I’m half asleep :)

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