Writing around Roadblocks

Mutzi and Lisa Bullard's deskI’ve tried to cre­ate a stim­u­lat­ing atmos­phere in my home office. Works of art by the illus­tra­tors of my pic­ture books adorn the walls. I have a Rain­bow Mak­er in the win­dow. There are bloom­ing plants and inspir­ing say­ings and a bas­ket of toys to play with. There are birds chirp­ing out­side the win­dow (even an occa­sion­al owl when I’m work­ing at mid­night). My desk chair is large and com­fy. Mutzi the tail­less cat perch­es next to my key­board and purrs. Every­thing in my writ­ing space is meant to help me tran­si­tion quick­ly and hap­pi­ly to a cre­ative and pro­duc­tive writ­ing frame of mind.

Which works great, some days. Oth­er days, I sit here like a dud. I’ve found that the only answer on those days is to take a writ­ing road trip.

It doesn’t have to take me far, or to a par­tic­u­lar­ly fan­cy des­ti­na­tion. One time I had about giv­en up on find­ing the right words for a par­tic­u­lar pic­ture book con­cept, despite weeks (maybe even months?) of bat­tling to pin it down. Final­ly I grabbed my notes and head­ed off to a cof­fee shop, with­out even my trusty lap­top as a token of the famil­iar. Sud­den­ly, in this dif­fer­ent envi­ron­ment, I was able to crank out an entire rough draft in about an hour and a half.

Of course, all of those unpro­duc­tive attempts in my home office also fed this cre­ative burst. But I’m con­vinced the sto­ry might nev­er have come out if I hadn’t bro­ken through that writ­ing road­block by tak­ing my pen-and-note­book show on the road.

Here’s a sim­ple way to give your stu­dents a cre­ative kick start when you sense their writ­ing ener­gy is flag­ging: allow them to move to a dif­fer­ent writ­ing spot. Do you have a long writ­ing ses­sion planned for the day? When you have ten min­utes left, allow stu­dents to stretch out on the floor or curl up in a cor­ner of the room with their note­books. Or ini­ti­ate a “musi­cal chairs” type of desk exchange, where every­one at least ends up with a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive of the room.

The com­bi­na­tion of move­ment and a change of scenery can work won­ders for our brains when they’ve become too com­pla­cent to remain creative.

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Nancy Sondel
7 years ago

Great sug­ges­tions! 🙂