My daughters have the LEGO collection I always wanted and never had. They’ve got Barbies of countless professions, and other toys that are classic, new, or popular. There are like five dollhouses and a mountain fortress (a proud hand-me-down from me).
But what they have, beyond all the bits and baubles, in truly unlimited supply, are stories. I see them playing, crafting their own narratives, creating a shared tale with each other, using any of those toys, or just whatever’s on hand. I’ve seen them make up stories with bits of pipe cleaners or lumps of clay. They’ve constructed whole families out of of snap-together beads and created drama out of different sized rocks. Their stories are inexhaustible. Sure, they mimic a lot of what they see and hear, but they combine those elements in new ways and their characters take twists and turns. They spend endless hours imagining other places and people, and they dream.
There’s a lesson there for us writers. Play with toys to imagine our stories. It’s no coincidence that I write about monsters and spaceships, magic and gunfights, or that my office is littered with forty years of action figures and Nerf guns. Whenever a story slows, or the speedbump of writer’s block approaches, I fall back to those toys and tinker while I think. There’s something about the tactile process of posing and playing, imagining and interacting that gets things unstuck. I don’t know, your mileage may vary, as they say. But if you haven’t tried it yet, do so. Play with some toys to get the story rolling again. Or make your own. A painted rock may have a lot to say.