Friday, August 31, 2012

Clearing Out the Clutter

by Riley Redgate

Why hello there!

I am writing this from my one hundred percent certified Dorm Room™. As of yesterday, you see, I am a fancy-schmancy College Student.

Classes started yesterday. Last week, I was lucky enough to go on a hiking/camping/backpacking trip in the wild outdoors with some folks from the College. Said trip involved a general deficit of personal hygiene, enough blisters to rival those of an entire cross country season, and campfires galore. And it was wonderful for a number of reasons:

1) I did not look at any screen of any sort for six days straight. This gave me a disproportionately heightened sense of personal accomplishment.

2) I made some excellent friends before I even got to orientation.

3) Here's a secret: Before the trip, I felt myself slipping down the slope toward Writer's Block. I was getting words out, but they were strained. The bottom of the proverbial barrel was getting severely damaged by my scraping fingernails. I was worried that when I got to college, I'd hit Real Actual Writer's Block just when I needed to be able to write for papers, etc. ... BUT, when I returned from the camping trip, my writerly brain felt refreshed. In fact, my mind had built up and saved several ideas over the six-day period, and the lack of ability to write them down made me all the more eager to take advantage of that ability when I got back.

Maybe it's nature. Maybe it's good company. Maybe it's depriving oneself of the actual physical ability to write for a while. Whatever it is, my new official advice for those afflicted by the dreaded writer's block is to take nature days. As in multiple nature days. Let fresh air clear your head; physically distance yourself from the word processor; don't think about writing unless it happens to drift across your mind in passing. Let the world flow before your eyes, easing the pressure on your writer-brain.

It's easy to get buried in the writerly world these days. We have blogs, twitter, social networking sites, email - with all of these awesome options to meet people with the same interests, it's easy to lose track of life outside all that, and the world outside our lives in general. I've often heard that the writer's best friend is a full and well-rounded life, every day/week/month filled with as many diverse experiences as possible. Maybe the fix for writer's block is to let your vat of life experiences fill back up so you can draw on it again with fresh perspective.

From this different physical place, and from a slightly different mental place, everything looks new to me. And this newness has proved wonderful for jolting my mind back to that place I needed to be. Three cheers for nature and the world around us!

Do you have any rituals to clear out the clutter?

Riley Redgate, enthusiast of all things YA, is a bookstore-and-Starbucks-dweller from North Carolina attending college in Ohio. She blogs here and speaks with considerably more brevity here.


Jemi Fraser said...

Totally agree! I think we all need those breaks. My job naturally provides me with times where I can't write because I'm working 60+ hours a week and I have a family I like to see - and occasionally feed. :) So when I do get my writing time back - I can't get the words down fast enough!

SC Author said...

I don't know if what I'm experiencing is writer's block as of now, so I'm taking my chances and hoping it is not. But this was a fun post and thank you :) I get scared if I'm away from my MS or don't write anything for even a day. I'm almost OCD about it, and I think it'll hurt me in the end. I think once it gets bad, I'll take a nature trip ;)

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

It's always good to take a break. The brain does what it does best - re-groups and refreshes. great post and nice blog. I will follow with interest.

Riley Redgate said...

Jemi -- Wow, busy lady! "Occasionally" feed the family, hehe, I hope it's a regular sorta thing. XD No wonder you'd want to reclaim that writing time ASAP, though!

SC -- Ooh, fingers crossed that it's writer's slump and not writer's block! I know writing regularly definitely helps some people stay on track, and who knows - different things work for different people. But taking a few days to clear one's head always seems like a good plan to me regardless of your style. :D

Pat -- Regroups and refreshes, like any good army. ;) And then ... once more into the breach!

Jean Oram said...

Yep! Getting out and getting away and changing habits and unplugging can do wonders! Have a great year at college. :)