Author: Pamela Foster

Jenga—The Muse

Jenga—The Muse

Pamela Foster wears many hats, and whether she wants to claim “writer” as one of them, she not only wears it, she wears it with panache. Through personal experience, humor, and tough love, Pamela will discuss ways to move past the things that hold writers back in these series of posts titled, “Jenga—Knocking Over Writers’ Blocks.”

Shower Scene

Taking a shower frees my muse. Something about hot water unknotting muscles, limited visibility, and the sensual feel of soap on bare skin – creativity seeps in with the steam. This morning while lathering my hair with shampoo, I became a new character.

Yes, you read that correctly. I did not think of a new character. I became a new character.

Here’s how:

I have arrived lately at the realization that I have no way of understanding most of what goes on today. In particular, I am lost in the world that young people must navigate. I have young friends who struggle daily, hourly, with making enough money to feed and shelter themselves. What can I tell them to provide hope? I know half a dozen kids who have watched parents or lovers or brothers and sisters destroy themselves with drugs. What can I offer to heal wounds that go that deeply? I have a Facebook friend whose lover, her best friend in the world, was murdered by cops while walking home from his job late at night. Mistaken identity. What possible words can I offer this young woman when she cries out for help late in the night?

I am a writer, and yet I feel inadequate, too old, too out-of-touch to offer a single original thought on life. What possible thoughts can a sixty-five year-old woman offer that will make any difference at all?

Return with me to the shower scene.

Luxuriating in hot water, thankful to be standing relatively pain-free, I reached for the shampoo. A new bottle. Not my usual supermarket grab, but a bottle chosen at leisure on a day of respite, a day of walking on the beach followed by a stop at a boutique beauty store. In the steam and with my eyes partly closed, it took me a few seconds to figure out how to open the fancy new bottle. Turned out to be one of those twist and click deals. I squeezed a dollop into the palm of my hand. It looked, felt, smelled pretty much exactly like my usual bargain brand.

So, I probably paid four times the amount of money for the same product I usually buy at the supermarket. Except this shampoo is in a fancy blue bottle made from recycled beer bottles and undoubtedly tested on soft little bunny rabbits and cute waddling duckies.

Right there, at that precise moment, I straightened up, allowed myself to follow the character who had just materialized in my shower. An older woman, clueless in the maze of today’s world, yet a woman who maintains her humor and love and desire to make a difference, a woman who yearns to leave the world a better place than she found it.

So, right now, some of you are saying, “But that’s you! That’s just you, not a new character.”

Well, of course, you’re right.

But you’re also wrong.

Certainly this character springs from my own frustration and desires, but while I am busy to the point of exhaustion most days with the demands and challenges of my own small life, this woman who came to me in the shower is ready and willing to take the time to explore new scenarios, new settings, she wants to explore a new story.

I’m going to follow her.

When writers’ block rears its ugly head, try a relaxing shower or bath. Immerse yourself in scented lather and let the water wash the stresses and the uncertainty away. Become someone else, become a new character, and when you’re relaxed—and dry—write that new story.



Pamela Foster wears many hats, and whether she wants to claim “writer” as one of them, she not only wears it, she wears it with panache. Through personal experience, humor, and tough love, Pamela will discuss ways to move past the things that hold writers back in these series of posts titled, “Jenga—Knocking Over Writers’ Blocks.”

I used to be a writer.

Life manifested as prose in my head, danced across a page the moment I opened a computer screen. Stories sprouted and leafed out and became living things. Ten books written in eight years. Six published, contracts for two more that are already written. Historical fiction, personal essays, humor, travel, contemporary fiction. When asked about writer’s block, I fluttered my fingers to shoo away the very idea, insisted there was no such disease.

So, what happened to change all that?

My writer’s block is a knotted ball of brightly colored yarn. Untangling individual lengths requires patience, wisdom, and more energy than I can muster. I suspect it’s time to toss the knotted mess and begin again. From the beginning. But, as anyone who has ever started a ball of yarn knows, it’s the beginning, the center, that is squishy and soft and unorganized. One has to keep winding, not worry about imperfection, in order to create a ball from a wadded mess of yarn.

This blog post is my attempt to do just that. To begin again. To once again see myself as a writer.

Life gets in the way of our dreams. That’s a fact. If this were not true, we’d all fulfill our promise, stroll easily in whatever land we envision. You should know I wrote that last sentence after deleting a very long list of excuses for what has grown up between me and my writing. Even now, I struggle not to type an abbreviated, oh-so-very succinct and essential list of all the challenges of the last fourteen months, those experiences which fog my mind, cloud my vision, numb my creativity. We all have excuses for turning aside from our hopes.

A few years ago, at one conference or another, I had the good fortune to be included on a panel with a half-dozen authors who shared their expertise with a group of newer writers. An earnest young woman in the audience stood up and asked each panelist to name his or her favorite book on writing. She hugged her arms around herself and promised to read every single recommended book before beginning her novel.

She got the usual suspects that day. Shrunk and White’s The Elements of Style, Dillard’s The Writing Life, King’s On Writing. I was the last person to answer and, I admit, everyone else had taken all the books on writing I could think of off the top of my head. But, even had I been first, I’d have given the same answer.

“Stop reading about HOW to write. Sit your butt in front of the computer and write. Write badly or well. Write. Write until you stumble upon that flash of creativity that leads to finding your voice and then keep writing.”

“Oh.” She raised her palms toward me. “But, right now I’m busy with . . .”

“Stop making excuses,” I told her. “Write. Just. Write.”

In my previous life, when I spoke as a writer, I used to go around the room at the beginning of my presentation and make people introduce themselves with the writer’s equivalent of the AA confession. So, since I am beginning again, starting from the messy middle of the ball of yarn, and striving to follow my own advice, please, let me introduce myself.

“Hello. I’m Pamela Foster and I am a writer.”

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