When You’re Drawing a Blank

When your car battery dies, you get one last shot* at bringing it back to life before you have to call for a tow: the rolling start. To start a dead car this way, put your car in gear (2nd or 3rd gear is usually best), pop the clutch pedal and let your car begin to roll (or have your passengers push it). As the car picks up speed and the gears and wheels begin to spin, witchcraft happens** and the engine turns over without the aid of your dead battery. Voila! Your car is now running.

Yes, that will definitely work.
Yes, that will definitely work.

Sometimes life gets busy, your batteries drain, and your writing voice goes quiet. There’s an echo where the words used to be, and you sit in your own headspace, itchy and vaguely bored. But deadlines wait for no one, so let’s pop the clutch and get rolling, even though the battery’s dead.

Coffee. Lots of coffee. I used to own a Keurig, but once I started writing seriously, one single serving of coffee at a time wasn’t enough. Now I’ve got an industrial carafe-style brewer and a black belt in caffeine tolerance and a lot more energy and a metric crapton of run-on sentences that I have to constantly edit, which requires more coffee and frankly I don’t see a problem with any of this.

Not exercise. I know a lot of people use exercise to get out of a mental rut, but I don’t, because when I go exercise before I sit down to write, I feel like I deserve a reward for working so hard and then I go take a nap. Instead of exercise, I need dopamine, which I somehow always find not somewhere around my running shoes but at the bottom of an ice cream container.

Randos at the grocery store. I’m convinced I have a “Hi stranger! Tell me your whole life story!” sign tattooed on my forehead that I just can’t see. I attract strangers like… dogs beelining to another dog’s butt, or something. Last week, I was sitting at a car dealer waiting for my oil change to finish up, and a homeless man, who wandered into the waiting room for the free coffee creamers and cable TV, and with whom I never made eye contact, decided to tell me all about the murder he solved in California, the church down the street from the murder scene where he got saved and found Jesus, the lady up the street named Darla who was the mother of his daughter Desiree Darla and his son Adam whose last name he’s forgotten and why did I wear glasses? Didn’t I know about the new laser surgery so I could stop wearing glasses? Why don’t I wear contacts? This coffee sure is delicious.

My encounter with Clive the Itinerant jump-started my inner monologue once again, mostly with the words “Why does this always happen to me?”

Think about how William Shatner is 82, Betty White is 91, Justin Bieber is 19, and this website exists for parents who can’t remember how old their own kids are.

But honestly, I can restore my inner monologue by just getting my mind rolling again; that is, reading random things on the Internet. If all else fails, take a pen, write words at random on a piece of notebook paper, and cross half of them out. There. You wrote something.

On the other hand, if none of these things work, take a nap, or a mental health day. Or a vacation. Seriously, writing is hard work, and you’re probably burned out. 

*Unless you don’t drive standard. Then you’re screwed.
** Technical explanation.