The Art of Letting Work Go
A few months ago, I was nearing the end of a short story I’d been working on for weeks. I knew I wanted to wrap things up in a way that brought two of my characters — until now, strangers — together, but couldn’t figure out how to get them in the same location. Nothing I came up with made sense.
So, I did what I always do when I’m stuck: I sat and stared at the screen and cursed myself for ever thinking I could complete a halfway decent story.
Eventually, I had to make dinner. As I stood over the stove, absentmindedly stirring chicken and veggies in a pan, I stared into the distance and thought about all I’d put my characters through. How could I get these two particular individuals to meet? And what would make their encounter significant?
Suddenly, out of nowhere, the answer presented itself, like a bulb lighting up my brain. It was so obvious I felt stupid for not coming up with it sooner. I finished cooking, ran upstairs, and typed up the final paragraphs of my story — or, at least, the first draft.
Out of the experience came a lesson: Taking a break from the screen and allowing my mind to wander was the perfect anecdote to writer’s block. Rather than putting pressure on myself to come up with an answer, I did what we should all do from time to time: Daydream.
Sometimes, It’s Best to Just Let Go
When I’m up against a deadline (even if it’s self-imposed) I want to finish the work NOW. I always feel that taking any time off will interrupt my workflow, therefore leaving the task at hand incomplete.
But I’m finally realizing that with writing, sometimes it’s better to let the work simply sit for a while. If you’ve tried putting words to screen (or paper) and nothing feels right, the best course of action might be the one that feels most wrong: Let it go (at least, temporarily).
Take a walk. Cook a meal. Bake cookies. Knit. Draw, paint, or color. Exercise. Visit a museum. Soak in the tub. Let aimless thoughts flow through your mind. Allow ideas to come and go. Soon you’ll feel ready to tackle the work again, possibly with the perfect solution to whatever was tripping you up.
I’ve tried this many times and I always come back feeling inspired. There’s something about taking my eyes off the screen and focusing on a completely unrelated task that enables me to feel productive, yet takes the pressure off trying to come up with that oh-so-perfect word or phrase.
So, the next time you’re not sure how to write on, maybe stop writing altogether. It might be exactly what you need to break the block.