As a writing instructor at the college level, I spend quite a bit of class time in all my classes (basic college writing classes as well as in literature classes) discussing with my students how even if they have no idea what to write [about]–what to say, they should just write SOMETHING–put SOMETHING down on paper even if that something is “I have nothing to say” over and over and over and over and over again. I have even told them to write their name over and over again if they couldn’t think of anything to write. The important thing, I always tell them, is to come to class with SOMETHING written–never come to writing class empty-handed.
I spend a lot of class time discussing/lecturing my students on the importance of writing SOMETHING, of never coming to class empty-handed. I have stories of previous students who have written about sitting in their little red truck before class and writing about sitting in their little red truck before class writing because Mrs. Watson said never to come to class empty-handed.
I use the movie Quills as an example of how if the Marquis de Saad could find a way to write, they can find a way to write. (In the movie, the Marquis continues to write in spite of continually having his writing utensils–quills–taken away from him. He finally uses his own feces in his own desperation to write.)
Without always using the words “stream of consciousness,” I teach my students to write stream of consciousness style writing rather than not write anything at all. When they don’t know what to write, quite often just the physical act of writing sometimes helps them end up with a workable document. I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as writer’s block. Those who try to argue that they have writer’s block are simply looking for an excuse not to write–do what needs to be done.
When I was growing up, I was teased mercilessly that I had “dish-pan hands” because rather than doing the dishes after supper, I would disappear into the bathroom–until the dishes were done by someone else.
In other words, we tend to avoid what we don’t want to do and many of us don’t want to write. We put a fancy spin on it by saying we have writer’s block, but it boils down to the plain and simple fact that we just don’t want to write. (I didn’t want to do the dishes, so I used the bathroom.)
As my summer is beginning, I have been excited about the opportunity to have a summer of teaching online only so I can spend my summer writing. But now that the time has come, I’m blocked–apparently I don’t want to write.
Wait a second; let me clarify that statement. I want to write. I am having a ball writing in my journals–I have several and I have written in every one every day since the Spring semester ended. I am writing letters and emails and enjoying every moment of the writing. This is already my second blog entry for this blog of mine in less than two weeks and I have enjoyed writing each entry.
The problem is that I do not want to write what I had originally intended on spending my summer writing and working on: my memoir. While I have a really good draft, I no longer have any desire to work on it at this time.
What I do want to do is color. I have been doing a lot of coloring in my journaling Bible and thoroughly enjoying it. The strangest thing about my coloring, though, is that what I really want to do is just color a whole blank page with the same color.
And that’s exactly what I did.
I kept telling myself that I should draw something–I should use this really cool paint pen for something more creative than simply coloring a whole blank page. So I tried drawing a few sunflowers and writing the word “joy” over and over, but I kept going back to coloring the whole page. I colored four or five whole pages….no images…just colored the pages and I loved every second of it.
A part of me felt (still feels) guilty for “wasting” the ink in this cool paint pen with coloring whole pages rather than doing something more creative and artistic with it. The other part of me feels very satisfied with my coloring pages. There was something very cathartic about coloring whole pages with a paint pen.
It was my artistic version of stream of consciousness writing. In spite of our feeling as if we’ve wasted our time by writing a bunch of so-called gibberish or coloring a whole page the same color, there is great value in doing SOMETHING. Writing the same thing over and over again or coloring a whole page one color has great artistic value–because at least I’m doing SOMETHING.
No writing is ever wasted time.
No coloring is ever wasted time.
No ART is ever wasted time.
I wonder what Julia Cameron would say…..