Have you ever sat down in front of a blank page and wondered, “Okay, what do I do now?” Or, even more frightening, been convinced that the emptiness was taunting you, as if daring you, “C’mon, write something, if you can”. Sounds like the story of my life.
This intimacy with the inevitable writer’s experience of feeling like you’ll never write another word led me to choose the “Inspiration: Lost and Found” workshop at Kay Adams’ The Power of Writing journal conference held in Denver, Colorado last June. Although geared towards journal writers, it was applicable to any type of writing. Facilitated by Charlene Geiss, founder of the Diarists’ Workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico (www.diaristsworkshop.com), the session provided both a review and fresh ideas on how to negotiate my way when my Inner Muse decides she’s better off encouraging “a real writer” (she has also been known to do double-duty as my Inner Critic).
Several definitions of “inspiration” were offered. My favorite, from an unnamed dictionary is, “A divine influence directly and immediately exerted upon the mind or soul”.
The workshop began with a short free-write done in the third person called “I Witness: Inspiration”. We focused on our physical surroundings and the feelings experienced when the words fall from our fingers so quickly we struggle to keep up with the torrent. In other words, we wrote about what it feels like to be inspired.
Afterwards we shared words and phrases that capture what productive writing is for us. The range was captivating – from “dancing fully in the morning”, “an explosion”, and “newness” to “sense of urgency” and my personal favorite, “when it was done, the pen stopped”.
Charlene offered specific ways to help encourage inspiration. I particularly appreciated her suggestion of playing with art. In my case, collage speaks to me. There’s something indefinable about cutting, choosing, and arranging images and words from my thrift shop magazine bargains that unlocks a part of my brain that in turn lets the words free. My gigantic poster board collages decorate the walls of my apartment, an ongoing map of where I am in my life. Listening to music, reading past journal entries or other pieces, and photography can also give your writing the energy burst we all need at one time or another.
Although the discussion about how to activate whatever inspiration feels like for each of us was beneficial, the workshop’s ultimate value was learning to reframe what happens when my desire to write exists but the words don’t.
Geiss reminded us that “fallow times” are okay. We all have them, regardless of what we may admit to others! Being in the midst of the nothingness is uncomfortable; however, that “nowhere time” is necessary to allow whatever is processing in your subconscious time to ripen and ready itself before it bursts forth.
She urged us to describe these quiet times in positive terms, giving strength to the belief that the words we choose to describe a lack of inspiration can have a direct impact on how long it lasts.
“Charged suspension”, “fertile void” (which evokes images of growth, abundance, and greenness) “questing”- they all represent a moment in a writer’s life where trust will guide us through. Soon enough, when the time is true, that void of words becomes a mecca as the words push themselves onto the page, no longer able to be denied.
How else do you think I wrote this column?!