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How to Beat a Writer's Block

Every now and then you run into a block which, at the moment at least, seems pretty insurmountable. How do you get past it?
1. If you can't think of a thing to write, write that. Seriously. Write 'I can't think of a bloody thing to write and that's making me bloody mad' until something different comes to mind and then write that and then what follows next. It's true what they say, "An Idle mind is the Devil's workshop." It's quite amazing the amount of curious things that breeze through our mortal minds. Grab them as they pass and commit them to screen or paper. Never mind what they are. As long as you get something down. The sorting can be done later. It's easier to sort something you have than sort something you don't.

2. Try taking yourself a little less seriously. Don't try to be perfect. Feel free to write a lot of nonsense. In the olden days, professional writers were the biggest buyers of large dust-bins. Nowadays they are the biggest users of the delete button. Or, speaking for myself, the save button. Maybe one of these days someone with a lot of time on their hands might like to mouse through whole files of 'The Masterpiece in the Making'. Or maybe I could create something entirely new from the cast-off words.

3. Read other people's writings. You could either get inspired by the writing style or get a new idea to follow. Or, on the flip side, you could get terribly complex. Shit, how am I ever going to learn to write that well? It's hopeless. I'm better off committing hara-kiri. And since few of us are brave enough to actually try that, we might as well give our imagination a go and write how it might feel to commit suicide in Japanese style - "The cold point of the sharp knife is pressing against my soft tummy and I'm mortally afraid to go any further. Besides I don't want to ruin this precious dress with a hole through which plenty of blood might flow - after all I pinched and saved to pay rather a lot for it, you know - and since I'm blocked and all, who knows when the next paycheck will come to shore up my bank balance and make it possible for me to afford a new one?" In which case, we might even try to write how it might feel to live hale and hearty in the Japanese style.

4. Maintain a regular list of ideas, so when you run out you can check up and come up with something. Also, you could follow the different leads arising from a single idea. Like, if you're writing about Napoleon, you could checkout the various things happening around the world during that era.

5. Look at a painting and write about it. Never mind the critical and historical perspectives, write what you think in your own voice. This is a favorite of mine. The other day I flipped open a Picasso book, looked at 'Les Demoiselles d'Avignon' and wrote, 'This is a very important painting. Because it was painted by Pablo Picasso. Otherwise I don't see any merit here. It is a very ugly, discordant painting - supremely ugly, not divinely. It upsets my sense of balance and it looks to me as if even Picasso gave up on it as hopeless. It would be a good idea if the Art Historians too followed his good example.' Now that may not be the truth and the whole truth, but at least it gave me something to think about - does the painting have merit and why am I missing it?

6. Listen to music. Write about that. I'm listening to Italian Opera right now. 'La Donna E Mobile' by Enrico Caruso. I don't know what he's singing, I don't understand the words - of course, I can easily search the lyrics on the net, get them translated and all - but point right now is getting the feelings out. And the feeling is beautiful. I love it. Then I remember hearing somewhere that Enrico Caruso had weight problems all his life. That switches my thinking to 'It ain't over until the Fat Lady sings'. And what a famous Music Conductor once said - "Those that eat like canaries sing like horses; those that eat like horses sing like canaries'. That gets me thinking about food and nutrition.

7. Watch a movie and write about it. Don't write a review. Write how you would have made it.

8. If you normally write on a computer, try writing on paper. Or vice versa. Sometimes switching medium can prove useful.

9. Go for a walk. Exercise helps - so does observing everything you see on your way. Come back and write that.

10. Do nothing for a while. Let your mind rest and have another go after you're refreshed.

11. Try gardening. It really helps clear the mind. And if it doesn't, well, at least you got the garden cleared up. You accomplished at least one thing today. Excellent! Now write yourself a long, congratulatory note.
By Sonal Panse
Published: 9/25/2006
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