Unblocking the unmentionable – unlocking your potential
|April 19, 2012||Posted by Dan Peacock under lifestyle|
It’s 2am. I’ve got enough Red Bull in my system to drown a regular bull, and scrunched-up balls of paper litter the desk in front of me. My computer screen is blank. Any aspiring writer, or anyone who’s ever had to write an English Lit essay or a difficult letter, will know what I’m talking about: writer’s block.
Now, first of all, let me make something clear. Writer’s block does exist. There’s a school of thought that says writer’s block is an imaginary concept invented by lazy people who can’t be arsed to write more than the title – but I’m pretty sure these are the same people who claim that clinically diagnosed manic-depressives are just being drama queens.
In fairness, the term is tossed around a lot more than it should be. If you’ve had a great idea for a short story, developed a half-decent plot in your mind and come up with some original, compelling characters, but still can’t seem to get it to paper, then sure, you have writer’s block. Staring gormlessly at the screen and waiting for a multi-million pound idea to magically appear isn’t writer’s block – that’s just a lack of inspiration.
But if you do have a genuine block, what can you do about it? The standard reaction is probably to continue staring wistfully at your blank notebook or computer screen while you slowly become more and more depressed, but there are a few methods you can use to try to get the creative juices flowing:
Have a read
Pretty much any writer out there will tell you that the more you read, the better it is for your writing. It gets you in the right mindset and sometimes gives you the odd idea, although you have to be aware of the difference between being inspired by a book and rewriting it but just changing the characters’ names. Once you’ve started writing, make sure to keep it up – and frequently – so you don’t end up back at square one.
Go for a walk
Having some time alone with your thoughts can often encourage the creative part of your brain to get off its arse and do some work. Even better, walk to a public place where you can people-watch or craftily eavesdrop on conversations, such as a café or bar. The general public’s conversations are an absolute goldmine of material. I once overheard two old women on a bus discussing their celebrity crushes; the list included Noel Edmonds, Piers Morgan and, surprisingly, the Stig from Top Gear. Inspiration is out there if you’re willing to go and find it.
This one is more useful for cultivating and building on an idea you’ve already had. You don’t have to light candles and incense and set an ambient mood, but closing your eyes and clearing your thoughts for a few minutes can really help you reflect on your ideas and think about what you need to do to get them on the page. And if randomly zoning out doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, don’t worry: you’re already doing it. That annoying period when you’re trying to get to sleep and your mind starts to wander is technically a form of meditation, and your subconscious is more likely to pop up with a suggestion or two of its own when you’re in this state. Just make sure to have a notebook handy to capture any ideas that you’ll otherwise have forgotten by morning.
I can’t stress the importance of this enough: carry that little notebook with you. 99% of ideas come to you when you’re a million miles away from a pen and paper, and no matter how hard you try to remember them, by the time you get home at the end of the day they’ve gone. Kaput. If you’re prepared and have a notebook to hand, when you get home you might have a few scribblings to get you started or to add to an existing idea.
And if all should fail, don’t worry. There is one sure-fire antidote to writer’s block: deadlines. There’s no motivation in the world like the knowledge that you have only a few hours to finish whatever you’re writing or else you’ll be fired or fail your course.
If anything, that’s what university has taught me.