In the film Barton Fink (1991), one of the seminal works of independent film icons Joel and Ethan Coen, a screenwriter routinely sits at a desk in a dark, dungy hotel room, staring back and forth between the blank page before him and a bright, breezy painting on the wall. In the painting, a beach-clad beauty reclines on the sand on a summery day, and stares out to sea. The writer’s fascination with the painting, especially the sexy lass in the bathing suit, is seemingly an effort to find inspiration for the wordless white mass below.
In thinking of this scenario recently, I realized that the blocked writer would have done better in focusing on the surf, not the sex, for inspiration. We’re all familiar with the ocean waves that surfers ride over and over. And why do they ride them over and over? Because the waves keep coming. The tide never rests. Whether you’re a novelist or a copywriter, a blogger or a poet, freelance writers for hire take a word to the wise, and use the churning tide as a “role model” for motivation!
Endless. Relentless. Constantly in motion. That’s the surf. Equate its tireless modus operandi with your own work ethic and commitment as a writer. This might seem like “out of the box” thinking, but when does out of the box ever keep anyone tied up inside it? Not often, all things being equal.
Like the boxer that keeps coming, the race horse that won’t quit, and the job hunter who hits more interviews day after day, the tide is tenacious. Sometimes calmly, sometimes with hurricane force, it never stops working. Do the same as a writer. Be in that mindset as you work. Instead of staring at that blank page, let waves of words flow out of you. Putting something down is always better than nothing. It gives you something to work with, like a sculpture’s mound of clay. I’ve never failed to turn out a page, when I first forked up a phrase.
You might even display a dramatic picture (or painting?) of a powerful wave, or a steady, softly determined one, above your workspace. Maybe put on one of those ocean tapes and listen to the sounds of the surf to inspire your own work patterns. This being summer, take a holiday to the beach and spend some writing time alongside the real thing. And if you already live at the beach, you have no excuse!
Strive to be as persistent as the tide in tackling jobs, meeting deadlines, and turning out pages. Surf’s up! Ride it, and be more productive and prolific.
Michael V is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.