Nothing To Say

What to write when you have nothing to say? Anyone who has ever attempted to commit to a writing goal can attest to grappling with this dilemma. Despite meticulously laid plans and the best of intentions, some days you just come up blank. It feels as if you can do nothing but stare at that blinking cursor in the upper right corner of the screen. A frustratingly large amount of the time, you wish it would simply move on its own. 

However, every writing guru also knows that the tiny, winking black line at the top of the page is propelled by one thing, your voice. It is the most obedient worker, tap dancing across the white stage only when expressly commanded by your vigorous typing. It’s the perfect dancer but you must provide the choreography. 


Strangled By Inspiration

Being inspired and being productive often do not go hand in hand. Unfocused inspiration can be just as maddening as writer’s brain (Writer’s block is a myth. See my reasoning here). I have dozens of ideas orbiting my consciousness but they flash by before I can catch one and mold it into words on paper. 

A seasoned master of the written word will weave a great net of routine and strategy to corral all those random lightbulbs of inspiration. Such individuals know from years of experience that casting a single line into that pool is a hopeless endeavor. What are some of your strategies for capturing ideas as they come to you? Please share in the comments and help me perfect my process.  

POTD: Writer’s Brain

“Inertia is the death of creativity.”Austin Kleon

There is no such thing as writer’s block. That was some of the most valuable advice I’ve ever received and one key takeaway from a four year engineering degree. Writer’s block does not exist. Inertia exists. Sometimes it’s there and sometimes it’s not. The trick is to keep writing when there is no guiding inertia. Make a habit of writing everyday. Practice discipline and someday everyone says it will get easier. 

That’s a kind of discipline that I’ve always struggled with. There is no defined finish line. There are no bounds to what I might or might not accomplish and the only person who stands to be hurt from my failure is me. Everyday that I fail to write I only disappoint myself. I’m tired of being disappointed. I have done so much in such a short time during my first year in Indiana. I have accomplished things that I never thought I could do. 

I am capable of this. I am capable of writing everyday, of finishing a blog post, of finishing a story. I can find the words. Even the wrong ones are content on paper. I need to jump in and do it wrong so that I can go back and make it right. I need to carry a notebook wherever I go and jot down any ideas that might pop into my head for fear of losing them in the sea of useless information which clutters my consciousness. I’m never going to expand my vocabulary unless I read and write every day. I need to keep a list of all the new words that I learn and I need to practice using them. I’m tired of murdering the punch line of a good story because I can’t seem to settle on exactly the right word. All the ones that come to my mind are grey and bland. They are generalizations, not a picture that someone else can see, taste, hear, smell. I want to be that good. I can be that good. 

This was a frustrated pep talk that I wrote to myself a while ago when I was having trouble making the wheels of creativity turn. How do you force the pen to move when inertia fails you?

Please Love Responsibly

I don’t usually try to rhyme. This is one of my first attempts because playing with words is fun.

You love with the heart
Of an unloved man
Pitied for your part
Never sure if you can.

Claiming uncharted shores
And skies of deepest blue
While opening doors 
That you would never walk through.

I don’t understand 
Cherished everyday
Why you play the unloved man
When you know a better way.

Now your tears fall
Demanding an apology
That I didn’t call.
Oh, sweet tragedy!

Chin up darling.
You’ll find someone new
As soon as you stop pretending 
To be the broken hearted fool.

What My Ghost Looks Like

Check it out! One of my pieces was published on The Drabble. This was a creative freewrite that I did during a particularly rough day in college. Much darker than I usually go for but all is well now.


By Sofia Gamba

Her face is colorless, eyes dull. Heavy lids veil earthen green that used to sparkle there. Smile lines crease the skin around her mouth but they’re twisted the wrong way. Hair hangs loose, pale and cold like the rest of her. Fingers clench into fists that whiten her knuckles but she’s not angry. No. She’s chilled, exhausted; a strong wind might blow her away.

She’s a bad day I had once. She was searching for sunshine through the mirror. I still see her sometimes, for a second or two, never long enough to tell her that she found it.

“I write to relax and unravel the knots in my spaghetti brain.”

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POTD: Robins Playing Soccer

When inspiration fails it pays to take a walk. Sometimes all you need are fresh views, fresh ideas, fresh air. Now, with summer on the way there’s even more to enjoy as the world begins to stir from hibernation. At times, I’m perfectly content to sit and watch the grass grow greener by the minute. There are two small trees visible from my apartment window and everyday they cast a little more shade. This freewrite came from my most recent expedition into the neighborhood on a chilly spring afternoon. 

Nothing heralds warm weather like the chatter of thousands of birds in the sky, fluttering their wings among the leaves so that it seems like the blossoming trees themselves might take flight at any moment. I saw two robins playing soccer today. One of them had just attempted to score. The goalie was planted in front of a small net, the ball a short distance to his left. The owners of the ball and net had already turned in for the evening, no doubt having just been called inside to wash up for dinner. Still, the game continued as the two robins danced across the field. They were refereed by a blue bird who perched on a low hanging branch to one side, prepared to step in at the first sign of fowl play. However, today he was just a spectator like me. There was no unsportsmanlike conduct, just two robins playing soccer. 

POTD: The Last Three Pages

In an effort to improve my creative writing skills I have recently become an avid reader. I’ve always loved books. My sister and I grew up being read legends of Middle Earth and the grim deeds of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales. These instilled in both of us a passion for the written word but often finding time to actually read has taken a backseat to other more pressing things. 

However, having graduated and now enjoying the freedom that spare time brings, I have been plowing through the stories on my bookshelf, most recently Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg. I’m a sucker for happy endings. I like to know that the peculiar and remarkable people in those stories end up where they’re supposed to be and my love and attention as a reader was not wasted on a lost cause. The last three pages can make or break any book for me. There were some stories in which I was completely enthralled until the last two paragraphs that I wish more than anything I could unread. Better yet, I wish they could be unwritten instead of left out in the open to dry up what would have been a fantastic tale. 

There were other stories that I felt might have been oversold by the people who recommended them. Bill Clegg’s novel was one of them. I clung to my skepticism through every unhappy sentence. However, when I arrived at the last page, I had no choice but to let it go because there was no ending that could have better completed this masterpiece. There’s always a special connection to stories like that, best friends that won you over against all odds. Those are relationships that stay with you.

POTD: Filled with Home

This free write was the product of some healthy boredom one evening when I was sitting in my apartment with the windows flung open wide, savoring the sounds and smells that drifted in. For nearly as long as I can remember, my family has vacationed to Utah for weekend camping trips and there are a few quiet moments throughout the day that always call back good memories like this one. 

The earthy scent of evening dew pushed its way through the balcony screen door on a stiff clean late March breeze. The night was black outside her windows and the wet pavement shimmered with the reflected light of streetlamps. Traffic on the next street quietly droned in harmony with a gentle choir of crickets. The world was soft, dampened yet totally sharp, the flutter of each individual leaf on the sidewalk crackling loud and clear in the still black. 

It reminded her of campfires and early morning expeditions into the desert jungle gym surrounding her family’s campsite. It reminded her of mosquito bites and sunburns and orange sand between her toes when she stepped out of her hiking boots. She felt like if she leaned out over her balcony railing and looked straight up she might see a spray of sparkles in the inky sky that she knew with absolute certainty was the Milky Way. She was too close to Chicago to see anything in the night sky but if she closed her eyes and breathed in that cool, sweet air, she could almost see it. 

She could see her family, burrowed into low camp chairs beneath those stars. They sang cowboy songs and laughed at her dad’s cookie monster impression, tears of mirth streaming from their eyes. In that quiet, wet, dark air she felt home surround her and fill her up. Her heart felt ten pounds lighter and ten pounds heavier all at once as she sat curled up on her sofa and let herself miss home.

POTD: A Bookshelf Where the TV Would Go

People are always surprised when they come to visit and discover that I don’t own a television. However, in place of a fancy flat screen I have a small rickety bookshelf laden with an impressive, albeit incomplete, Tolkien collection, the beginning of a Brandon Sanderson addiction and every published book by Sarah Addison Allen. These are accompanied by a smattering of family recommended reads, backbreaking college textbooks and well intentioned self help books. I have a long way to go to achieve my life long dream of becoming someone with too many books but we all have to start somewhere. 

While I enjoy the occasional Netflix binge, I’m excited for the day that I need a bigger bookshelf. Someday I will graduate from apartment living and settle in a nice home with a yard and a dog (and a series of turrets and secret passages if my fairy godmother is feeling generous). But one thing this future dream home must have is a library, preferable doubling as a cozy study where every wall is lined from floor to ceiling with stories of every length and genre. I can’t wait! What books do you keep in your hobbit’s study? When it comes to reading lists, there’s always room to grow.

POTD: Miles of Stone

This is another free write about one of my past selves on her trip home from college. It describes the section of I-70 which snakes through Glenwood Canyon where the Colorado river hosts daring white water rafters in the summer and cyclists enjoy the views from the bike path. To this day, I still get excited for this part of the drive. 

She was always full of anticipation to come home. For as long as she could remember, she waited with bated breath for the entire 20 minute stretch of car ride through the canyon which opened into the singularly beautiful little valley where she’d grown up. Over the years she’d memorized the canyon walls, pretending that dragons lived just behind them in vast stone caverns. She imagined them peering out at her through the thin crevices in the rocks. She knew this place. She knew what it looked like at sunrise and sunset, how the walls of the canyon turned to shimmering golden palaces where fairies held court. She knew the exact moment when, if she craned her neck and pressed her nose to the window, she could look straight up the sheer cliff face and see the stone alcove where an American flag had been planted, its star spangled majesty eternally unfurling in the wind. She would always salute it before the car sped around a bend and the flag disappeared from view.

Every curve in the road and every dimly lit tunnel through the mountains came and went like clockwork but as each one passed she couldn’t help bouncing in her seat and squealing with excitement. The thought of what waited beyond these grand halls of stone was so vivid that she could taste sulfur on her tongue even though the local natural hot springs were still miles away. She’d made this trip hundreds of times but the exuberant thrill of it never faded. She felt like a kid about to enter Narnia. She was on the Hogwarts express, speeding toward a world of magic and adventure, a place that lived in her heart no matter how far away she went.