The Writer’s Block

It has been 7 weeks that I have been fishing ideas out of an ocean of thoughts. It is my last week as a news and opinion writer at Indian Folk, and I have been trying my best to come up with fresh ideas that do not clash with those of my fellow interns. No wonder we end up stepping on each other’s toes with the commonalities in our ideas. The Romer model shall describe it in economics as the phenomenon of as the duplication of ideas.

Working as a content writer, advertising copywriter, or a novelist is a tough job. It requires originality, creativity, wit and knowledge. Most of us, at some point of time, come across a situation where we hit a creative block… The writer’s block. It is a situation where one runs out of ideas to work upon. The condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing is called a writer’s block. It is a frustrating situation wherein one can simply not find anything to start with. Without an idea of what one has to write, follows vexation.

After seven weeks, I began running out of ideas and topics to start with. I tried to search if I had come to a phase of impasse (Quite frankly, being anxious about it because I had work in hand). I began reading some stories about writers’ blocks and I came across some astounding facts.

Many writers have undergone this situation, the most famous being Harper Lee who was unable to write anything post the publication of “To Kill a Mocking Bird” and tried crazy methods to get her brain cells to produce something new. Henry Roth suffered one of the worst writer’s blocks of all time which lasted for over a decade. Ralph Ellison, the author of “The Invisible Man” published in 1952 called this condition “a chronic procrastination”. His “procrastination” lasted for 42 years. In 1991, Time magazine discussed the curiosity generating case of Harold Brodkey whose first novel had been announced in 1960s but due to a writer’s block, it was published in 1990s (the writer’s block lasted for 30 years).

“Writer’s block is both a cause and effect of depression, self-deprecation and other mental disorders”, read an online medical journal. I gulped.

Post reading such extreme stories and heavy psychological terms, my anxiety reached a new level. I sat on my desk biting my nails and then staring the ceiling. Like every hypochondriac who had already searched the symptoms, I began surfing the net for the solutions. Yet another series of fascinating stories came up.

There are strategies that writers use to overcome this block, it ranged from sane tactics to crazy solutions. Coming to the sane tactics Maya Angelou (the author of “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”) uses the “just write” strategy, even if the result is not satisfactory, because ultimately the conviction comes. Neil Gaiman takes a break from writing to kick start his creative engines again in what he calls the “Hibernation strategy”. Mark Twain emphasises on “The Outline Strategy” that is breaking your major tasks into small and manageable daily goals to avoid procrastination.

Some methods to be tried in non compos mentis (unfit state of mind) which are rather insane include talking to yourself or an imaginary friend, changing your writing environment and even base like notepads and pens (if on the laptop then fonts). Pick an argument with other writers as the contrarian psyche provokes creativity; imagine your muse and you’ll end up with something. Taking a shower before writing was among one of the techniques I came across.

Many famous writers have a rather superstitious approach towards productivity and procrastination. Goethe could write only if he had an apple in the drawer of his desk. Roald Dahl jots down the idea as soon as it comes to his mind with literally anything like pen, crayon or lipstick etc. in his old red school exercise notebook. He writes his content on yellow American Legal writing pads sent to him from New York. He needs six sharpened yellow pencils of a particular type, with an eraser at the end on his desk, that he sharpens every two hours.

By now I was wondering if I ever had a writing ritual.

In the story “A Shady Plot” by Elsie Brown describes a columnist suffering from a writer’s block and how he was helped by a ghost Helen, from the “Writer’s Inspiration Bureau” an organisation of ghosts that helps writers struggling for an idea and how an Ouija board party at his home end things in a pandemonium. Such stories about writers struggling with a block only worsened my creativity.

After going through all the confusing yet enthralling facts and stories about writers’ blocks, I thought of writing about what I did today, as an act to measure my productivity. As I typed the alphabets in this word file I realised that I was already through with my write up.The timeline of this very small creative shutdown is now the story of my petite writer’s block.

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