Curing Writer’s Block With Strawberry Shortcake
by Mark LaFlamme
The evening was a disaster from the start.
It was midnight and I’d just sat down to write the final chapters in my novel “The Pink Room.” I was writing in my usual spot, but the snow globe was nowhere in sight. It wasn’t on the shelf where I’d left it, it wasn’t on the desk next to my keyboard.
Panic rising, I searched the house, eventually turning to ridiculous spots like the refrigerator and the toaster oven. Astoundingly, the snow globe wasn’t there.
I woke my wife, desperate like a junkie looking for his stash.
“Code red! The snow globe is missing! I repeat …”
These are the household emergencies wives solve without waking all the way up. There was no problem here. A niece had been playing with the snow globe, a little pink number featuring Strawberry Shortcake smiling atop a piece of fruit. I was directed to the living room where I found it on the floor.
Crisis averted. Back to work.
A good therapist would have a field day with my writing ritual. I surround myself with trinkets, simple items that have come to represent various works of fiction over the years.
There’s the heavy metal cog I turned to while writing “Worumbo.” There’s the fabric flower with the demented smiling face that served as avatar for “Vegetation.” There’s a baseball, a bottle, a box shaped like a book, and a stuffed chickadee that makes realistic bird noises when you squeeze its belly.
Trinkets and treasures – stuff that would fetch a combined five dollars at a flea market and yet to me they’re priceless. Without those items, I’d freeze at the keyboard, my hands hovering over the letters, the page blank white, until someone comes to cart me away.
It’s superstition, no different than a baseball player pulling on the same crusty pair of socks before game time. I sit down to write, touch the item that represents the book du jour, and I get rolling.
And yet, it’s more than that. When I touch that slightly rusted cog – or the stuffed bird or the tiny plastic shovel that represents my fourth novel – it’s like pressing the “on” button. Once that simple act is behind me, I know it’s time to write. Permission has been granted, a few thousand words are demanded before I can leave my desk again.
As a cure for writer’s block, it’s unbeatable. “Well, I don’t feel like writing today, but I already touched the (your item here) so I better get to it. It would be bad juju not to.”
When other writers ask me how to fight back against dry spells, I advise them to get a trinket. It doesn’t have to be much – a little something out of the 99 cent bin will do. Keep it nearby, touch it when the words won’t come and bam! It’s go time.
By the time you have a few books under your belt, you’ll have an impressive collection of souvenirs to mark your time. Your writing room will look like the “win these prizes!” booth at the carnival. It’s a beautiful thing.
Get rid of the crusty socks, though. Those things are starting to reek.
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Genre – YA / Thriller
Rating – PG
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