If you're a writer, you've experienced it… writer’s block. That creative rut you get into and can’t seem to find a way to shake it. That feeling can be oppressive and hold you back from telling the stories you know live inside you. We don’t always know where it comes from, why it persists, and most frustratingly, how to eject it. I’ve been there… it can be difficult to overcome.
However, I can sometimes work through the blockage if I change something about my writing practice. The change doesn’t have to be big, sometimes the little things make all the difference. But sometimes, if you make several small changes simultaneously, you can see remarkable results.
I primarily write on a computer – my fingers are comfortable on a keyboard. I usually write at my desk, with the same chair and same noises surrounding my writing space. Usually, I’m wonderfully productive. But every so often, I like to take myself to write in a different place, with different noises, and different furniture. I’ve been doing this for quite some time, so I shouldn’t be surprised by the results – but somehow – I still am, pleasantly so.
Today’s field trip took me to The Detroit Institute of Arts. I’ve enjoyed this place since I was a youngster, visiting with my family, on school trips, and later, on dates or with out-of-town guests. Visiting places of our childhood with adult eyes can sometimes show us new perspectives and build new relationships with friends and the creative process.
Today, my friends, Raine and Tandi, came along to share the experience. We had a fantastic time walking through the halls of exhibits, soaking up the inspiration shared from the masters, chatting, and generally reminding ourselves why we do this thing we love – it’s fun.
We didn’t go with a specific itinerary or a timetable. We decided where to stop as we walked along, and when we found a place that spoke to us, we sat, set the timer for fifteen minutes, and wrote. For me, writing field trips mean writing longhand, on paper. I don’t like the idea of dragging around alternate power supplies to power the laptop or tablet, and I’m never sure if I’ll have a place to plug in… so old school writing seems to make the most sense. I always bring along a small box of colored pens… I use a new pen for each new writing session. There’s something about the change not only in environment, but also the change in ink color that helps Drake to think outside the pond.
Altogether, the three of us got in eight, fifteen-minute writing sessions. I produced about twelve pages of hand-written plot moments for my NaNoWriMo project next month. We were surrounded by paintings, sculpture, armor, and writing from a collection of hundreds and thousands of years of history. It was interesting to me to see how Drake's imagination was influenced and changed in each new room. We walked around the museum and looked at other exhibits, and spent some nice time in conversation, as well.
Aside from spending the day doing what I love with good friends, there were two highlights of the day for me. The first was lunch. My favorite comfort food is macaroni and cheese, and the DIA makes a plate of cheesy goodness that is extraordinary – and not over-priced. The interesting conversation the three of us shared during the meal made it that much better. I enjoyed talking with these women, learning more about them, and sharing a bit of laughter, too.
The second highlight was an unexpected encounter we had in one of the galleries. There we were, sitting together on a bench in a room filled with exquisite paintings. There were others walking around us, enjoying the art, as well. Sharing space, but not necessarily conversation when in the middle of a creative quest, is part of why writing field trips work so well. The additional energy is the fuel Drake and I don’t always know we’re missing.
Suddenly, we heard an intense voice on a loudspeaker… “Warning, you have come too close to an exhibit.” Evidently, the DIA has proximity alarms on the artwork hanging on the walls. I had no idea, it had never occurred to me, although in hindsight, it makes sense. As cool as that was, though… a stern, disembodied voice chastising a visitor who got too close, was what came next. A woman looked at her young daughter and explained the warning voice in a calm and gentle tone. “It’s okay, that was just the museum God letting Daddy know he got too close to the painting.” Raine, Tandi, and I laughed… and so did others within earshot of Mom's explanation. Mom didn’t flinch, didn’t over-animate… the entire exchange was simple, gentle, and almost nonchalant. It was a fun moment we carried with us through the rest of the day.
If you have a chance to change up your writing practice, I highly recommend a Writing Field Trip. They can be extremely productive, and you never know what fun moments will make a day of writing more impactful to your WIP than you imagined. My most memorable moments are in the photo gallery below.
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