Dubai Diaries: Stepping out of writer's block
By now I am so well-versed with this malady that I can see it approaching from a distance.
As a writer, one is expected to churn out stories on an almost daily basis and this becomes a bit of a dilemma when we face the dreaded phenomenon known — rather appropriately — as writer’s block. By now I am so well-versed with this malady that I can see it approaching from a distance; the signs are all evident — a frazzled mind, an overload of information, mental lethargy and the inability to crawl out of a creative rut.
Famous writers have dealt with writer’s block in different ways. Maya Angelou, author of The Heart Of A Woman and Letter To My Daughter, among many other books, believes one must constantly write even if one is not inspired and eventually you could experience a breakthrough. American writer Mark Twain, who penned classic novels like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, was of a similar mindset. He was quoted as saying, “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”
I remember doing a very comprehensive writing course by post in the mid ‘90s — a small section of which tackled writer’s block. One of the mentoring authors suggested taking a break from your desk and indulging in activities that were not related to the immediate task of writing — which could be housework, outdoor chores or anything to take your mind off the dried-up inkwell.
Today, the Internet is chock-a-block with solutions. But as someone who has experienced writer’s block quite often over the years I have realised that different tactics work at different times. Sometimes on my weekly offs, I do a complete ‘word detox’ — I cook, clean, water plants, make Lego or start a jigsaw puzzle — and come back to my unfinished work feeling (somewhat) mentally refreshed.
But on working days, with deadlines looming, I cannot afford the luxury of such escapism. These are days when I soldier on, in the great tradition of Angelou and Twain, clattering away on my keyboard, using the backspace more often than I care to remember, but all-in-all, sticking with the story till it gets done.
The voice of my high school English teacher echoes once in a while in my workspace — she would always say ‘don’t use too many adjectives’. While typing persistently, I also recall the simple and charming literary works of two of my favourite authors — Ruskin Bond and R.K. Narayan — that evoke vivid scenarios; I decide to take a leaf out of their books and de-clutter my vast repertoire of words, using only what comes to mind effortlessly. When in doubt, leave it out!
There are days in life when basic and not brilliant is the standard to aspire to, because the former is a reflection of your honesty and dedication, while the later would just turn out to be an uninspired polishing of a reasonably well-done task. These are the thoughts that float through my mind as the mighty block gradually recedes and elusive muses slink back into view — filling my world with inspiration once more.