I have a torus palatinus. No, that’s not some obscene fetish. An oral tori is bony growth that occurs on the palate or jaw. Common, harmless, and normally painless, mine is on the roof of my mouth and doesn’t usually bother me.
Except when a piece of food gets stuck in the narrow crevice of my palate.
The offender is usually a small piece of almond―my snack of choice. I wiggle it with the tip of my tongue, but can’t dislodge it. I try to ignore it, but that minute ort feels like an oversized crouton. By the time the fragment disintegrates, or by some lucky stroke of my tongue I manage to remove it, my tongue is raw.
My oral tori is a lot like writer’s block. We’re stuck. The words or ideas simply don’t come. An oral tori can be surgically removed. Not writer’s block. But there are ways to work through it—to free the words within.
- Walk away. It sounds counter-intuitive, but taking a break can relieve the stress. I’m a quilter. When I’m stuck, I like to exchange writer’s block for a quilt block. Piecing varying shapes of colored fabric together engages a different part of my brain. After I’ve sewed a few blocks together I feel like I can tackle a writing project again.
- Exercise. Writing is sedentary work. We need to balance it with physical exercise. A walk around the block, a workout at the gym can do wonders to relieve stress and get the creative juices flowing. After all, the best ideas strike not when we’re at the computer, but when we’re doing something unrelated and our mind is free to wander.
- Start in the middle. Getting started can be the hardest part. You have so much information or so many ideas you don’t know where to begin. Start in the middle. Start with all the great material you do have. Once you have the heart of it, the beginning may just write itself.
- Make an outline. Maybe your obsessive compulsive nature won’t let you start something in the middle. Try outlining your material. At least you’re writing. An outline will help you organize your thoughts. Writing the piece will just be filling in the blanks.
- Unplug. Remove all the distractions—the Internet, the iPod, the social media. While they are great tools for conducting research and feeling connected in what is often an isolating line of work, they also make it hard to focus. You may be surprised at what you can accomplish in an hour or two of undistracted, focused writing time.
- Just do it. Sometimes you just have to write through the writer’s block. You have to write what Anne Lamott calls that s_ _ _ _ y first draft. Of course it’s not going to be perfect. No one, not even Stephen King, gets it right the first time. But the difference between him and you: he put his butt in the chair and did it. And sometimes, that’s what you need to do. You can clean up the mess later. But if you don’t start somewhere, you’ve got nowhere to go.
Oral toris are common, though not everyone is afflicted with them. Every writer, however, does struggle with writer’s block from time to time.
How do you work through writer’s block?