Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Curing Writers' Block

One of my friends recently told me that Charles Schultz, the creator of the famous Peanuts cartoon strip, claimed that his hardest work of the day was when he stared out the window.

"Wouldn't that be fabulous?" my friend scoffed. "I wish I had the life of an artist."

Then my friend glared at me.

I knew what my friend was talking about. After all, anyone (like me) who has time to stare out a window must live the life of luxury.

I don't stare out windows anymore. I used to, as a kid. That's when I developed my best story ideas – in those quiet hours. Then people started to worry about me. They convinced me that I was either:

a) Mentally ill

b) Vitamin D deficient

c) Going to jail some day because I was a freeloader who refused to do actual work

So in an effort to prove that I was stable, healthy, and independent, I decided there would be no more staring out windows. I would multitask. I would do household chores while I thought.

This was all great in theory, except for the time I accidentally cleaned my mom's rug with bleach instead of carpet cleaner. Or the time I accidentally washed my sister's pants with the ballpoint pen. Or the time I (accidentally?) fed the dog refried beans instead of dog food (hey – they smelled the same, but the results were definitely different).

Unfortunately, this pattern has continued into my adult life. I can no longer think while staring out a window. I have to have some sort of fabric-altering, household goods-damaging chemical in my hands.

Last week I was proud of myself. I will not clean with any chemicals while I think about writing, I thought. I will just wash the couch cushion covers.

With the bleach safely out of reach, I poured the mild detergent into the washer and watched the cushion covers spin.

Perfect. My story came together wonderfully in my mind while the machine worked.

An hour later I pulled the cushion covers out of the dryer. Oops, I realized. My niece was in need of some new couch cushions. She was in luck, too, because the ones I just dried on hot would fit her Barbie couch perfectly now.

My husband was calm about the whole ordeal. We could use the cushions as cup coasters, he suggested. Or hang them on tiny wires and make earrings out of them.

I rejected his ideas. After all, I would be afraid of losing such an expensive piece of jewelry.

It's been a week, and I feel another bout of writers' block coming on. Last I checked, though, my husband had hidden all the harsh chemicals and disconnected the dryer unit.

If I keep up with this writing business, I may never have to work again.


B.J. Hamrick is a journalist, humorist, and Real Teen Faith Editor-est.


  1. LOL, I love it! And I know just what you're talking about...as a ten year old, I liked to clean the kitchen because I got my best story ideas while cleaning it.

    Can you believe my mom never once complained about my need to clean something while thinking through my stories and articles? :)


  2. Go figure, Deb. Moms are so low-maintenance sometimes. ;)

    Thanks for being my one lone comment!

  3. LOL! Those poor couch cousins. I don't usually get my ideas when cleaning. I generally get them when I'm printing (my family and I are missionaries and work in printing). Drives me insane, because even though there's paper all around me, I can't write the ideas down because I'm printing 10, 000 tracks or jogging a Bible. Seriously annoying :)

  4. OK, that'd be cushions. Wow, why did I write cousins? Ahem.