Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Conceptual Metaphors and Images (For Writing Blocks) Contributed by Other Writers

Here are some conceptual metaphors & images for writing blocks I've received from other writers. Send yours along by commenting to this post. Indicate whether you want your name displayed or whether you prefer to stay anonymous.

My metaphor for writer's block is using a GPS where it keeps searching for the satellites, but it can't figure out where you are. It just keeps searching and searching, and eventually you either give up on it, or you find your way, but while it is searching, it is a feeling of hopelessness and frustration just like writer's block for me. My metaphor for writing when it "works" is trotting on a horse. I lose track of time and feel totally focused on the up and down and the sounds and smells and totally absorbed in the moment. Writing when it flows is totally like that for me. --Shirley P. 
Writer's block feels like I'm clawing my eyes out with jagged fingernails. --J.L. Powers (

Being at the bottom of a monolith with endless stairs.
                                --Audrey, graduate student in Overcoming Writing Blocks course

I was sixteen. It was snowing heavily, over a foot on the ground. I had left the admissions office of Amherst College, where I’d had a bland interview. I was to meet my father at the town library. He had told me directions, but I took a wrong turn and, as Springsteen says, “I just kept going.”

The snow kept falling, off and on, and the wind blew through the gaps in my overcoat and my buttoned wool suit. Finally, I knew I had gone wrong, so I turned, and turned again, and I found myself on a long stretch with few houses. Ahead of me was the University of Massachusetts football stadium. A flicker of memory: a warm autumn day, the bright colors of the field and the uniforms, the concrete bleachers like giant steps, each row coming above my waist. Before a childhood in Illinois and adolescence in Western Connecticut, I had spent my first five years of my life in this college town as my father finished graduate school.

It got colder. My thin socks were soaked with melted snow that found its way into my dress shoes. I turned again, some side street lined with small houses and bare trees. Off to my left I could see where I thought I wanted to go; something told me it was the way back downtown, where the library had to be, where at least there would be stores at which I could ask directions.

It had been over an hour. The library was only five minutes from the Admissions Office. Where was I?

Ahead of me, I couldn’t see a way to turn left, so I left the street and set off down a driveway, then walked through a snowy backyard and leapt over a half-frozen brook.

As truly as I remember, the moment I stepped over the brook it hit me—my own past. I was in a small lawn in the back of a student housing complex—Lincoln Apartments—where I had lived those first years of my life. I had flashes of playing ball on this lawn when there was grass, not snow. I followed a map in my mind around one building and there it was: my earliest home! That back wall, where I’d bounced a ball and learned to catch; the second floor railing from which my father dropped a coconut. It split at the foot of our apartment’s porch, white chunks in the sun. And there, from the porch, I saw the parking lot where I had learned to ride a bike.

I didn’t knock at my old door. I had come far enough.

It took another 45 minutes to find the library and my worried father. I told him my story, where I’d been, what I’d found. I couldn’t explain the mystery of it--why I’d chosen that backyard at that time—and I couldn’t make clear the wonder of it, the way that step across the brook brought a lost world back to me. It couldn’t mean to him what it meant to me: wandering in the snow, dressed in, of all things, a suit, lost, uncomfortable, and then, leaving the road and cutting through someone’s backyard and stepping into something at the core of me.  --J.D. Scrimgeour

I think of writing as a thoughtful expression of various ideas, questions and themes joined together in one carefully engineered structure, in which all the parts do not necessarily compliment one another, but all assist in the work 'becoming' through a combination of their supportive, compressive and passive properties. Supportive parts represent reason, which gives the structure strength and integrity. Compressive parts are the questions I am asking or trying to answer; they are what I deeply examine or wrestle with. Passive parts are grammatical and syntactical elements that provide clarity.

For me this process is like constructing a skyscraper. I am the uncertain and self-conscious engineer, guided by a loose blue print of creative compulsion. Using ideas as the materials and emotion as the fuel, I build, and many times disassemble, until I’ve reached a summit, where, in full view, I feel accepting, if not satisfied, with the overall structure.
--Carolyn Strain, graduate student at Salem State University

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