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15 cures for writer’s block. (because i’m such an expert on these things.)

28 Feb

writers-block21Not really. And I have about 5, maybe 6 “cures” to share. All about the misleading titles, don’t you know? Anyway, as I sat on the metro this morning, being shuttled towards the OK Corral, it dawned on me that I should never complain about writer’s block. Not with the plethora of possible stories all around me provided by the various walks of life on the metro. One afternoon some months ago, for example, I watched two women chat with one another across from me and was immediately fascinated with them. I don’t know what it was; they just seemed full of energy and verve and were extremely entertaining to watch. Enter the trusty smartphone, which I used to viciously take notes about them, then enter the short story I began to write based on those two interesting ladies. See? Writer’s what? Nevertheless, there are times when yes, ideas and inspiration are everywhere, but the creative brain still doesn’t seem to connect from idea to story. Well, fellow creative writers and other such artists, here are a few things that seem to help me, not that you asked or anything:

Music. Put on your headphones. Lean back. Close your eyes. Regardless of whatever you’re listening to, whether Rachmaninoff or Backstreet Boys, I guarantee that the pen will start moving, the fingers will start tapping on the keyboard–there will be writing. It never fails for me. Not quite sure what it is about music and the written word for me, but the two seem to go hand in hand. And forget it if I’m listening to any songs by this guy. He makes me crazy. I want to write and paint and traverse rivers. Goodness. In fact…

I think this song embodies everything about the struggle of making art. Apparently, the song itself came from a place of frustration and writing the final track for the Born in the USA album. It’s pure beauty.

Keep your eyes open. I won’t rehash it more than I already have, but there are trillions of people all around us, full of intrigue. Stare at them. (Carefully. A newspaper or book helps if you need to look away quickly.) Watch them. Imagine. Write.

Read. Good writers being good readers aside, I think it’s important to also surround yourself with everything from newspapers to small ads in the back of magazines. You never know when a story will jump out at you.

Know the Difference…between laziness and being blocked. Because I gets lazy. The work is there, the ideas are there, but there’s a Golden Girls marathon on, and I don’t feel like writing…you get my drift. The marked difference, I think, is how you feel. I’ve been in a place where I could not write. Nothing helped; creativity was next to gone; I even shed tears about it. It was weird, crippling, and utterly frustrating, being that for most of my life, writing is all I’ve done.. Conversely, I once peered through some of the pieces I was working on and bypassed all of that for a nap on the couch and some channel surfing. Yep. Major difference.

Art. You see them when you visit the museum or art galleries. They sit on benches facing paintings/sculptures/etc., staring intently at the works of art as they write/sketch/doodle into notebooks and tablets. In my mind, some of them have come to get the creative juices flowing. And I’d like to think that art inspiring art is the way to do it.

Those Pesky Delusions of Grandeur. Ok. Perhaps like me, you think every piece of fiction you create should be the next winner of the O. Henry Award for Fiction? So you’re waiting for an elevated, complex plot that trumps the so-called simple idea you have in your head about a dog who finds a pot of gold in the backyward? Yes? I once had a college pal and fellow writer (amazing, that guy) tell me, after I complained about writer’s block, “I don’t believe you. The ideas are there. You just don’t like them.” At the time, I wanted to kick him in the toes. Deep down, perhaps he was right. Well, not perhaps; he was correct, being that I had just mentioned a few ideas playing around in my head. The point is–and I constantly deal with this–work with what you have. An idea is an idea. It may not be the next piece shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction (oh, I know ALL the awards for fiction, believe me), but it’s all yours. Work with it.

Six ideas, not 15, but I think you get where I’m going with this. It’s really advice to myself: just try to keep writing.

Anyone out there have tips to combat writer’s block?

insert page number.

29 Jul

Most writers have weird rituals and habits. Some won’t discuss a story, not even a little bit, until it’s finished. Some do the exact opposite. Mark Twain apparently wrote lying down. Vladimir Nabokov wrote his stories on 3×5 index cards, clipped them, and stored them in slim boxes. My true love, Mr. Billy Collins, only writes with a fine tip, Black Sharpie pen. Eons ago, I had a beloved, treasured Scripto pen that I called Blackie, which I used to write my stories with (when I used to write in longhand). And, yes, I cried when the ink ran out of Blackie. Anyway, most, if not all, writers have a thing they do.

What thing do I do? When I’m into a story, when I’m falling in love with it, thinking about it, weaving the tale and working on my character studies…I insert page numbers.

Prior to inserting page numbers, the story is a blank canvas to me, a rough piece of clay that I’m working with. But then comes this moment, this feeling, when I know it’s time to make it official. Weird, indescribable, dizzying, my ritual. It means that I’m ready for the progression, to see it through, to work with it until the final page.

That’s happening now with a story that I’m working on. I just inserted page numbers minutes ago…

Onwards! Onwards!

Oh, before I leave, in honor of that thing we all do:

An Offering

2 Jan

I remember this guy from college, an excellent writer that I admired. I went to him one day for advice, to pick his brain about the raging writer’s block I was experiencing at the time. We shared a fiction workshop class and a playwriting course. His response after my long tirade on said block? What he said after I begged him for give me some kind of wisdom on how to write something creatively viable? (And after my request that he put something together and simply, you know, use my name?)

“Nah. You don’t have writer’s block.”
“But, I just TOLD you…I can’t write anything!”
“Yes, you can. You just need to work a little harder. Brainstorm; develop the ideas in your head. And yes, there are ideas in your head. The block thing seems like an excuse to me. You’re not being serious.”
Stung and offended, I said nothing, merely wishing that terrible, diseased things would happen to him.

In hindsight, I suppose he was right. (Ok, ok, he was right.) My purpose in relating the above? I wrote a brand new poem! This will not be a frequent thing, as I’ve said, sharing my work, but for pure excitement reasons…

Today and Tomorrow
A Poem

How is it possible
to see the End before the Beginning?
That a smile will surely fade,
that a laugh will return to its dark, little corner,
growing sad, little cobwebs?

Is it best
(knowing that the End will be the same as before,
the same as always)
to ignore it totally?
To look away, to dash hope, to stifle that Sweetness?

Oh, but soon, that one will walk into the room.
And eyes will focus on that one,
and the smile will slowly display itself,
and the laugh in the corner will stretch and yawn, awaiting its
infectious manifestation.

Because in that constant battle between the
End and the Beginning,
the Sweetness will always win.

Hardly a perfect offering, but it’s something. It’s something!



Sincerely, Taj

Dear World, I have stuff to say, so get cozy. Here, I've got cupcakes.

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