Writer’s Block

Write around the ‘Block’

From Newt’s Notes Column, August 11, 2002.


Being a writer is harder than you might think.

Sure, we writers have no heavy labor, don’t work outdoors, and have no clue what the square root of 40 is, but we have to constantly come up with ideas and generate them into structured pieces of artistic literature.

OK, maybe I splurged a little bit on that “artistic” comment, but our jobs involve more of the mental aspect of America’s workforce than physical.

For example, writing what we call the “lead” of a story (the introductory sentence or paragraph) involves producing words that will draw the reader’s interest in a story and make them want to read further if they are only casually interested.

Though not all leads work (I would say only a handful actually do), generating the creativity takes a lot of mental energy. That leaves an author susceptible to journalistic illnesses, such as the sometimes career-fatal “Writer’s Block.”

Writer’s Block is the technical term for that condition which befalls a writer during certain points in his or her career in which all ideas and all creativity seems to die.

A person knows they have contracted it when they just sit at their desk and stare into empty space all day – never generating an intelligent thought. The career-fatal part comes when that writer suddenly decides they are in the wrong business and leaves their job to sell flowers on the street corner.

I think I have Writer’s Block. (Is that a daffodil smell wafting through the air?)

Now, this condition is nothing new to me. I usually suffer from it two or three times a year. Thankfully, it will eventually go away with time.

But in the meantime, I have compiled a list of tips detailing the ways I have handled (or plan to handle) creative boredom during times of Writer’s Block suffrage.

  • — Try to dig another creative well. Just be careful not to do it on someone else’s property. If you do, and someone catches you, the plagiarism police are certain to show up and take you and your drill away. Many a columnist has suffered this fate.
  • — Walk around and recite passages from Julius Caesar. I guarantee that by the time you get to Act II, Scene 7, “Et tu!” will turn into “Ah ha!”
  • — Whistle “Yellow Rose of Texas” while saluting a Texas flag. There’s nothing more patriotic that that. Try doing that when your from-out-of-state coworkers are hanging around. Their reactions are priceless.
  • — Write down all your complaints about your job, your boss, and your coworkers, and construct a fleet of paper airplanes. Then pretend that your fleet is taking off and landing at D/FW Airport.
  • — Show up at Thursday’s Tribute to Elvis show at the Palace Theatre dressed as Jerry Lee Lewis. You’ll probably come up with a million ideas based upon people’s reactions. Just don’t step on anyone’s blue suede shoes.
  • — Rearrange your desk to reflect the current interior design trend. I personally go for the beige and brown look, with the desk object distribution running from upper left to lower right.
  • — Paper wads. What else could entertain so easily, while offering a challenge at the same time? You can set goals of varying distances – from the trash can across the room, to the empty Dr Pepper cans stacked on top of the filing cabinet. Give yourself points for hitting the targets. Better yet, pretend you’re pitching for the Texas Rangers. Shoot, I bet you both of us could pitch for the Rangers right now. Looking at my accuracy, I could probably land in the team’s starting rotation.
  • — Count the number of convertibles rolling down Main Street. Count the number with drivers in them. If the two numbers don’t match, call the police.
  • — Play “rotate the snack machine.” Casually walk back to the break room, make sure no one else is present, and push the “rotate selection” button on the old snack vending machine until each item has rotated to the front at least once. If you’re really bored, try reading the “Nutrition Information” labels on the back of each item. If you see anything with fewer than five grams of fat, buy it.

Or, you could just write a column about not having anything to write a column about.

I hope these tips are helpful to you if you ever contract Writer’s Block. But if you start to smell the roses, you’d better polish up your resume because the street corner is calling. Good luck.

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