Writer’s Block Attacks Again!

Katie’s post got me thinking about what I do to counter writer’s block, both as a poet, and as one with a general interest in writing.

Often my writer’s block comes out of an impatience; a desire to express an excess of ideas and emotions urgently! The ideas are without definition. They are disorganized, and there doesn’t seem to be a clear starting point for the project, let alone a readable path for it to follow. Often, designing a project with rules can help to get ideas flowing because you can focus on the rules of the game, rather than the overwhelming sense of not knowing where to begin. You begin with the rules!

Here are two projects that often help me to shake loose these thoughts from the unreachable tangle, and to begin to organize them:

  1. Write a letter. Ideas seem to flow more easily when the writing takes the voice of a speaker in conversation. The letter can be addressed to a real person, but it doesn’t have to be. You can write it to one of your characters if you are creating a fictional world. You can write it to your sister. You can write it to an inspiring figure; one who you would love to share your ideas with, if you had the chance. Whomever you address your letter to, I think you will find that writing about your project, or about the themes that your project is focused on, will help you focus. The most salient ideas will condense in your mind as you write your letter. You’ll be able to understand your thoughts more fully; to write about them more accurately, and with more assurance. Sometimes it is just easier to express your ideas to a person, imagined or real, rather then to the potentially massive hypothetical and judgmental audience that your finished work will eventually be read by. The letter is really a workshop, or discussion with yourself, on the topic which you wish to write about.
  2. Blackout Poetry. This project works especially well in writing poetry, but it could potentially be applied to other forms of writing as well. In this exercise, you find a newspaper or magazine article, maybe even a page from an old book that you don’t mind writing in. First I read through the text, marking words that I find interesting or pertinent to my theme on a scrap piece of paper. (The association can be loose! The idea is to make connections between your idea and the words on the page!) Then you slowly work through the text, blacking out words with a pen or marker, and leaving some visible, until you are left with a (sometimes rather abstract) piece of writing composed out of the writing of the original found text. This method of extracting my idea out of found text often helps me to solidify my thoughts on the subject, and opens me up to expressing my own idea in ways (and words!) that I never would have thought to otherwise.


Below I have attached a sample of a Blackout Poem that helped me compose a series of poems about the sun, and the fractal qualities that permeate nature, and sometimes, our relationships.

Poem that emerges:

I painted a dusty spiral.

The way seeds are distributed
within the head of a sun:

nautilus temples
to order their pictorial spaces,
satisfying in this shape.


Slowly in his chair
he notes natives deserting
their myths.

With his own strange demons
loss occurs daily.

I don’t think I felt this relation more acutely.
I just kept the feeling
on warm rocks.


There was a meteor
that certain philosophers thought
but couldn’t feel.

I sympathized with
all of nature,

so attracted to
the Nile:
universal glue-
parallel in every man.
The basic particle
groping after

invisible familiarity
first leans forward
toward a back, covered,


He needs
character of the plant.
Drawing on my own
of rhythm
he introduced me,
he forced me
at its texture.

He turns,
folds his hands in his lap.

From CambridgeEditors,



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Filed under New Team Members, Uncategorized, Writer's Block

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