Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Those who can, do...

I'm sure you've heard that old saying:
Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach.
It's meant to be a criticism, but damned if I know why. I think about it in a different way: if you're struggling to learn something, the best way I've found to learn to do that something is to teach someone else how to do it.

I thought about these words recently when I was struggling to write. Writing can be a beast—and it seems that, especially during the summer months, I'm stalking that beast, chasing my words to try to capture them on paper. I have an overworked brain because of the change in schedule with my family that comes with summer—by change I mean the complete lack of any kind of schedule whatsoever.

This does not bode well for my creativity.

However, even with my own words stymied, I have found ample opportunity to give advice on writing to others—good, solid, helpful advice that I know I should maybe be following but I'm just... stuck. And I don't think I'm alone in this, many of my writer friends are in the same boat I am, home with the kids and trying to fit a creative life into the cracks left in each day. And while I was talking with these people is when I realized—even if we can't write right now, we can teach. We can inform one another of the truths we know that should be helping us to write those pages (if we only had the available brain cells to task them thusly).

Another thing I've found is that the more you immerse yourself in writing—in talking about writing, in thinking about writing—the more the words will come to you. Maybe not the words you want to find, but words; you have to listen for them. Lately, my words are coming to me in ways they've never come before; I'm compelled to write poetry—a type of writing last seen in the specific angst that occurred in my late teen years, but now has apparently returned in midlife—haikus and unrhymed verse and pages of couplets that stick in my brain like pollen.

If you're feeling blocked, it might just be a simple matter of putting pen to paper, putting expectations aside and letting the words that need to come out rise to the surface. My critique partners had the idea to try to write to different categories every month to try to stretch our abilities and skills. What a great idea! Thinking outside the box is usually a great idea.

I've come up with a list of words: nouns, adjectives, actions, places and times—to give me story prompts, such as: "The confused ant boarded the train yesterday" or "The sick dog glared angrily when they met at the rodeo." It's all about stepping outside of the box!

So, feeling like the words aren't flowing?
  1. Talk about writing to someone else and teach them your writing tips.
  2. Quiet yourself to better hear the words that come forward and don't try to tell the words what they need to be.
  3. Try something new—write in a different genre than normal or make up a crazy premise to shake things up.
How do you go from can't to can?