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Monday, August 11, 2014

Writer's Block? Start by looking out a window.

Sometimes the scourge of writer's block can be banished just by looking out a window.

I was lucky enough to travel to Beijing on business trip and took some time to walk the Great Wall of China. I snapped the picture above and remember wondering how cool would it be if that was the view outside my office window.

Like most writers, my office is in my home. My commute is comprised of shuffling into the kitchen for coffee, seeing the remnants of the feeding frenzy my teens went on after I went to bed, and plunking down at my desk. A whopping fifty foot journey. Then I stare out my window until the caffeine kicks in.

This view is much more pedestrian than the Great Wall. It's of a big oak tree that was mammoth-sized even before we bought the house. From this tree hangs my children's rope swing and a birdfeeder, allegedly of the squirrel proof variety. Both the swing and the birdfeeder are empty.

As I marvel at the blink of time the swing was in full use, I'm struck that the views out both windows are deceptively simple. It's just a wall or it's just a swing, but there are stories and truths worth exploring.

In Anne Lamott's book of writing, Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life, she talks about finding inspiration in the everyday and building the muscles of writing by starting small. By looking through a small frame, describe first what is there and then ask questions about why it is there or how it came to be.

My fingers stilled not from the terror of the blank screen, but from the flood of memories and musings about the roads not taken.

I'll take the view outside my office window - and all of its joys and pains - over the Great Wall's view any day.