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Kelley Clink

There are some writers out there who don't believe in writer's block. "Freewrite!" they say, with a smile. "Write about something else! Write from the point of view of one of your other characters!" These people always seem to be fiction writers. They use the word "craft" a lot. They are the ones who tell you that, in addition to writing your way through blocks, you need to write everyday--"if you are serious."

I don't mean to slam these guys. This is really good advice: for beginning writers. I followed this dogma frantically for the first four years or so of my career, so much so I damn near gave myself an ulcer. But around year five I experienced a level of language fatigue so severe I nearly quit altogether. I was out of words. I hated words. I didn't even have enough left to think a complete sentence. I'd been told that the well of creativity was bottomless, but there I was, curled in the fetal position on its floor, choking on dust.

This is how I learned to tap other sources. When I got burned out on words, I started making pictures: photographs and visual art. I listened to more music. I cooked. In short, I used my senses. Writing is so cerebral, frequently so one dimensional, that its easy to get trapped in your head. Like Anne Lamott says: "My mind is like a bad neighborhood--I try not to go there alone." The friends you can take with you are sight, smell, taste, sound. If you find yourself getting stagnant, if you find yourself hating words, stop. Breathe. Put on some music, get out a camera or some crayons, make some cookies. And do yourself a favor: stay away from Microsoft Word for a few days. It won't derail your entire writing career. I promise.

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