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Unblocking the Mind

Nothing frustrates the creative person more than the inability to create one single line, one small image or even a fragment of an idea when needed. Commonly called Writer’s Block, it should be called Writer’s Torture, Brain Snarl or Word Vacuum. Whether the infliction disables a person for a moment or incapacitates them for years, as it did for F. Scott Fitzgerald, it is something we all wrestle with. Or is it?

I personally don’t believe in Writer’s Block. I’m more of a believer in psychological repression triggered by latent thoughts of turbulent bouts with inner demons bent on the destruction of everything creative in my fantastical psyche, disabling my god complexes and my idea generating machine. It’s usually that or my pen is out of ink. What I mean by this nonsense is, I don’t give Writer’s Block it’s due. Then why do you italicize it, David?

Too many writers romanticize Writer’s Block as if it gives them credibility or appeal. I get it. Writing is a very painful process to those of us who are honest about it. So, why not add to your artist’s emotional palette of pain the color of empty thought? Don’t. I’m here to help.

I am going to give you some unconventional ways to break the grip of blank pages. There will be no advice here like: walk away from the computer, do jumping jacks, eliminate distractions or write in the park. You’ve already tried those. I’m going for ‘different’. Therefore, if my ideas work for you, please send a self-address stamped envelope and $25 to – no, just kidding. If they work, great. If they don’t, blame the imaginary voices that stopped talking to you and got you into this predicament in the first place.

Step 1. Acceptance

First step to every problem is accepting you have a problem and, more importantly, accept that every problem has a solution (except some of the calculus problems I was given in high school). Writer’s Block is no different. Do we think we’ll never eat again when we get indigestion? Do we give up hope of ever getting home if we get lost on the streets of New York? (Speaking of that, why was Home Alone 2 subtitled Lost in New York? The streets are numbered for Pete’s sake.) Sh*t happens. Writer’s block happens. Deal with it as being real and move to Step 2.

 Step Two. Fill The Tank

Writing something new every day is difficult. When I published a cartoon strip and political cartoon simultaneously, I needed 8 publishable ideas a week, every week. Talk about pressure. The secret I discovered in avoiding the ‘blocks’ or dry periods was to produce more ideas than I needed. I keep numerous notebooks for ideas in my studio. Some for my novels and screenplays. Some for business ideas. Some for my fantasy baseball team. These notebooks are not labeled. Please, don’t get trapped in trying to catalog ideas. Waste of time. Capture every thought and jot them down, especially the ones that have nothing to do with your current project. Even if an idea comes to you when you’re on the john, write on toilet paper if you must, after all, it is paper. Be vigilant in this or resign yourself to miserable days of barrenness and single-purpose toilet paper.

 Part C. Enough With Being Original

You may vehemently disagree with me or spit in my face (only to wipe it off your computer screen), but original ideas are as rare as visitations from Mount Olympus. There are no original ideas, only new ways of presenting them. In truth, we are an amalgamation of other ideas and thoughts that have invaded our minds over our lifetime. So no matter how original you think your story is, I can find another one very similar given enough time. Was it Carl Jung who said there are only seven plot lines in all of writing? Gee, and I thought I came up with number eight today. I mention all this because we tend to freeze our brains trying to come up with an ‘original’ line or plot that has never been done. Trust me, it has. Just write and tweak it in the rewrites. Get words on the page. You can’t rewrite blank pages. I’d tell you to quote me on that, but I can guarantee someone else has said that before me.

 Step 4. Attack!

You have Writer’s Block? Write about it. Write about what it is doing to you. Turn it into a brain-eating monster under your desk threatening the lives of all the writers on the planet. Make it a villain and you the hero. Write badly. Write with your toes. Go mad if you must. Beat the crap out of it with your words. Duel until dawn with it. Trust me, you will win. It sure beats the heck out of head in hands and gnawed up pencils.

 Step 5. Miss Alaneous

If the aforementioned (or is that four mentioned?) ideas don’t work, then it’s time to pull out the stops by trying one or more of the following. Good luck.

Here are some great websites that aim to solve these problems. We grouped them into a category called “brainstorming” and another “getting started.”

Get a talking dog.

Dust off a genie bottle.

Take long walks to Jupiter.

Kidnap J. J. Abrams and bleed him dry for every idea he has.

Write.

Whatever you do, don’t give Writer’s Block a toothbrush and a place to sleep. Ignore it. Write about it. Fight it. Defeat it. Just don’t live with it.

Happy writing.

 

 

David O'Brien

David is the Creative Director and co-founder of AUTHORS.me. With over 30 years of experience in television writing, cartooning, novel and screenwriting, David brings a creative flair to the AUTHORS team and a passion for everything writing.

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