Sunday, January 17, 2016

7 ways to overcome writer's block that don't cost a thing

Image courtesy wikimedia commons 

By Gaurav Parab

As you write, so comes writer's block. The writer's way of saying it's not easy putting words to paper. Unlike soldiers who merely avoid bullets, or surgeons where a slight difference between a steady and unsteady hand can change lives, or software coders who do things with doubly linked lists, writers face the mother of all challenges. Writers Block. A condition so difficult that it even has the word block in it.

Scientifically, an inability to do your job

While I know writer's block exists, I dont think it is that big a challenge as it is made out to be. It is but a juiced up way of saying I dont feel like writing probably coined by a talented writer. If anything, it is just life or distractions coming in the way and preventing one from writing and more importantly taking that step towards giving oneself a chance to write. Till a point that sometimes arrives when one feels that one has lost the ability to write. To make word follow word becomes impossible.

Boredom, fear that your work is not going anywhere, or a lack of plain old inspiration are the triggers. Here is how I try to overcome it.

1. Write no matter what side of the bed you got up from: A writer friend once quoted from a book that if you write a target number of words, say 1000 per day even on the difficult days when you just cant put thought to pen, pen to paper- then when you look back fifteen days later you will not even be able to identify the days that were tough for those thousand word are now part of a bigger body of work. So write no matter what. It is who you are.

2. Move around your work: If you are bored following the same linear structure everyday, move around. Write a chapter from later on. Maybe write the end or work on the synopsis.

3. Write something else: One key challenge I faced while writing my book was the character of Jennifer. How does she look like. How does she walk. How does she speak and think. For some of the others, I had made character sketches. Even real sketches. Followed by backstories that were not featured in the book. But I hit a wall with Jennifer. How do you describe a woman who is a girl but is a woman. How do you describe a girl who would not hesitate to kill her man if he strayed?

Writer's block. I just could not get those chapters together. So, I wrote something else. A poem. I called it Smells like Bombay - for Jennifer in my mind had to be a quintessential Mumbai girl like the city herself. Confident, occasionally naughty, a contradiction of some parts, a sum of others. And my god, the temper. That awful temper.

Post the poem, I was strangely able to motor along. As luck would have it later, an independent musician from Mumbai who was following my blog even made a song out of  the poem. Added bonus.

4. Do something else: Go for a walk. Don't carry your smartphone with you. Recently, I walked about 15 km to overcome plot related issues. Every time you go for a walk, you see something that will help you out.

Play a sport. Sports make for great dramas condensed to a short time. Paint, if you can. Try you hand at animation. Sing a song aloud. Watch a movie. But whatever you do, make sure you dont forget why you are doing it.

5. Drink: Whatever works for you. Coffee / / fresh fruit juice / hard drinks. But drink in moderation, and make sure you have a pen and paper handy. Most writing ideas are lost for you are too busy checking out strangers in pubs or falling in love with your own thoughts, when you should be making notes. In this case, if you think carrying a pen and paper to a pub is too nerdy - use your smartphone. Everyone else is probably doing the same.

6. Music: I am biased towards country music, for most songs tell a complete story in themselves. But whatever works for you works for you. Ghazals, and classical music works well as well.

7.  Flirt Talk with People: People generally are boring. Use this as a last resort. And only speak to people who can hold a conversation. Speak to the oldest person in your family. He or she will be full of stories - for isn't that what life is about? Making stories.

Keep writing. Keep creating. This is what you are meant to do.

Rustom and the Last Storyteller of Almora by Gaurav Parab [Hachette] was listed by the Times of India and Business Standard as one of 5 weekend reads , The Hindu calls it a Genre bender, The Statesman ‘An Almost Perfect Debut, The Lucknow tribune calls it a debut to remember, The Pioneer calls it Cinematic, The Vistara Air inflight magazine a Good Book on the Shelf, the Sakaal times says its ‘sheer brilliance in storytelling’ while the Bangalore Mirror calls it an unforgettable story. It is available in leading bookstores and online here

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