I'm reading "One Hundred Days of Happiness" by Italian author, Fausto Brizzi. No, it's not what you think; it's not a "how to" manual. The main character has just been told he has terminal cancer and has a hundred days to live. You may well say what has that to do with a blocked writer? A lot.
The character in the book is blocked-probably by shock. He finds he cannot work out what he wants to do before the fallout. He knows he wants happiness but what will make him happy in such circumstances? Finally, he buys himself a Dino Zoff, notebook. He knows he needs to put down words on paper but the notebook remains empty. Finally he writes 5 words: "Get Paola to forgive". Later he changes that to "Don't give up", which he realises is a more urgent a message.
So what can we do as writers to unblock ourselves? Write, write anything - even if it's only your name 100 times said one speaker at a litfest. The audience laughed. Writing one's name must be the most boring task of all. Maybe writing about the sheer frustration of the exercise or spilling out feelings of anger is more appropriate. Does it matter?
Stephen King, like so many other writers, confirms that we have to turn up to the process of writing every day. What we write is secondary. Hemmingway said that the first draft is rubbish! Who are we to contradict him?
So turn up we must-but how can we unblock ourselves? I find I like to write my new insights on life every day so to switch to book writing is easier. I also find that I get a creative "spurt" when I have relaxed by reading or watching a film. Many ideas sprout out and I try to record them for the "dry" uncreative days of writing in the weeks ahead.
I have attempted to buy a posh notebook to carry around with me but a blank page intimidates me like a large blank canvas scares an artist. Inevitably, when changing handbags, I forget to transfer the notebook (resistance?). Then my best writing days emerge, usually on the back of napkins or receipts, in a coffee shop.
This eventually led to my experimenting with writing my book longhand on a sofa or on a bed, relaxing. The ideas fired out of me. I guess writing up the pages on a computer automatically becomes an editing exercise and so the issue of performance arises and restricts me in some way.
At a recent creative writing workshop I attended, the speaker tossed out a mediocre word to the group, and the participants came up with the first word that came to mind. The exercise started off slowly. Then it got faster and faster as people enjoyed the process more and more, and became more creative. Then the speaker joined up the words into sentences, making a one-sentence summary for a variety of novels. I tried the exercise on my own but found that group participation added more buzz.
As a visual person, I only need to pull out photographs to start making up a story.
But more useful is the attempt to resurrect interesting words for a paragraph of absorbing description, be it about nature or man-made objects. I'm sure people who like audio could find similar triggers with sound.
As I travel round the world a lot, I have plenty of time on trains or at airports to create short pithy or long, rambling descriptions of people around me. Vignettes. Nothing like recording that weathered face where every wrinkle tells a story!!
So good luck with your unblocking adventures ...
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Barbara M Webb graduated in English at Queensland University, St Lucia. She has lived in 7 of the 52 countries she has visited. and now lives in Cornwall in the UK.