As a student at Vermont College of Fine Arts, one of the most challenging requirements that my classmates and I face is the dreaded deadline. Each month we must submit a ‘packet’ of work that contains a reflection letter, essays, revised and new creative work, bibliographies, and exercises. You name it, and we probably have to do it. It’s intense. We have to consistently produce quality work at a torrid pace. So, you ask, what happens when writer’s block sets in? First, if you never get writer’s block, please stop reading this immediately and go do whatever it is that you do when you’re not procrastinating or trying to figure things out. This is not for you. Okay, now that we got those guys out of here, let’s get back to business. Writer’s block is a blessing, not a curse. That’s right. Even for grad students with deadlines. It provides us with valuable time to clear our minds, and it gives us ample opportunities to formulate future plans. So, when writer’s block hits, don’t try to fight through it at any cost. Don’t try to force yourself to write just for the sake of writing.
Relax. Take a break. Recharge.
Here are some things that work for me:
- Get away from the computer. I happen to live in the hills of Vermont, so I usually go for a walk, a hike, or a run in the middle nowhere. The solitude is great for thinking. Before long, ideas for my current WIP always spring into my head. I think it’s because my brain no longer feels captive to the keyboard. There’s no pressure. The same reaction can work in a city. Find a place that you love to be. Go there. Let your subconscious take over.
- Immerse yourself in the creativity of others. Go to concerts, art shows and exhibits, farmers’ markets, museums of any kind, lectures, sporting events, etc. Insert unnamed event or activity here. People are amazing, and they’re all around us. I find that just being close to talented individuals or the things they create gets me going. It makes me think about my own creations. It makes me want to race back to the computer. Creativity is contagious.
- Start a completely new project. Maybe there’s an idea that has been swirling around in your head for years? Write a chapter. Maybe there’s a short story contest that you’ve always wanted to enter? Do it. Write it. When you return to your previous work you’ll be refreshed and ready to go.
- Read. Read something for pure pleasure. Throw off your reading-like-a-writer-hat and just enjoy. Get lost in the story, regardless of style or genre. Let it take you to that place that only great books can find. I guarantee you’ll come across some useful ideas while your visiting.
I count myself very lucky to be part of the VCFA writing community; a place where things like introspection and exploration of any kind are encouraged. I could even write my next essay about writer’s block and how it affects me. It’ll have to wait though. I have a packet due in a few days, and I’m feeling a bit cloudy. Nothing like a run in the Green Mountains to clear the mind.
Peter Patrick Langella, a former ice hockey player who happily traded body checks for spell checks, is entering his second semester at Vermont College of Fine Arts, working toward his MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. For questions or comments about his post or the program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, you can reach Peter at firstname.lastname@example.org.