When you suffer from writer’s block

In my Journalism class, you can often find me sitting in front of the laptop with scores of tabs open. While some of these tabs might be related to other school subjects, on most of the tabs I would be scouring the net for ideas to write on. I would energetically toggle from Google to Yahoo! to the New York Times website typing “what’s happening in the world?” only to finally give up and let fate take its course. Writer’s block. It does not happen all the time, but it does seem to hit me quite often.

Google, the wonderful search engine that grows my many ideas. Credit: wikipedia.org

I usually like to write articles where I can easily relate to the thrust of my writing. When I wrote about Maggi Noodles in tenth grade, I was inspired by my personal connection that I had with Maggi that I had grown up eating as a snack. Imagine my surprise, when during the course of writing the article I discovered that many SAS students had not even heard of Maggi. Similarly, when I wrote about Cyntoia Brown earlier in senior year,  it was because the topic genuinely interests me. I was captivated by Cyntoia Brown’s  melancholic life story and how she was finally granted clemency.

My second article from the tenth grade. It continues to be a favourite, but I can guarantee it took me a while(past the deadline) to get this idea and actually write it. Credit: saseye

But when Writer’s block strikes, it feels  like I’ve exhausted all the possible topics that exist out there. While the logical part of my mind knows that is not true, the creative side just does not fire. It requires an extra-ordinary effort to break out of this mental bind and this article is an outcome of one such break-out. I chose to focus my article on Writer’s Block after a futile attempt at writing an article on a completely different topic.

The common wisdom on how to move past Writer’s Block is to keep writing. I also know that this affliction strikes everybody multiple times without any warning. And that got me wonder, why does Writer’s Block even occur ?

We don’t ever hear of such a block from other professions. I have not come across Financial Block hitting finance professionals where people working in the finance sector are unable to move forward with their financial analysis. Or to quote Liz Gilbert, author of books such as “Eat Pray Love” and “The Heretic”,  “there are no engineers suffering from Engineer’s Block. So, what is so unique about the writing profession that it attracts such an affliction ?

Writing requires the author to mentally re-live every little memory and experience  of her life, finding that little insignificant anecdote and then creatively make it to be of significant interest to the reader. Challenging ourselves creatively can get hard sometimes, and then as we sieve through ideas we think are bad leads causes us to pity ourselves. Buf as Jeff Goins says in his blog, “What’s Really Happening When You Get Writer’s Block (and How to Overcome It)“, “when we think we are blocked, we become blocked.”

Could Writer’s Block be just an excuse that we have invented to make ourselves feel better ?  Writer’s block isn’t a proven medical condition. It’s what we say we have (as if it’s a disease or condition) when we’re scared, tired, have high standards, feel unoriginal, lazy and the list could go on.

During my senior year, I took a course called AT Writing and Publication. And as seen from the name, it involved a lot of writing. I went from writing poems to creative non-fiction, to horror stories and a travel experience. During this journey with each one of these genres of writing, the only common experience was that  ideas never popped into my brain at the snap of my fingers. I went through a long cycle of rejecting ideas before actually settling down on the right topic for each unit.

That experience made me realise that the best way to reach the good idea is to get rid of the bad ones first. But in order to get rid of the bad ideas, you need to have a long laundry list of ideas in the first place. That made appreciate the profoundness of  the conventional wisdom of keep trying and never giving up. And as I kept churning out new ideas, an important lesson I learnt is that when you get your idea, write it down immediately and don’t stop. If you don’t get your idea down as soon as possible, you’re likely to forget it and “Writer’s Block” swings its action.

I decided to ask my friend, Simran Sethi, senior and fellow writer abut her ways of getting through writer’s block.

“Reading. I read, read and read the genre I want to write about. For example, if it’s poetry, I’ll pull out my favourite poem and then read another one. For me, reading the words inspire new words in me.”

I can relate to Simran’s advice. Sometimes, I would pull out some of my favourite articles and re-read them to seek new viewpoints. Reading articles on unconnected topics is often helpful since ideas can come from anywhere. So, whether you are writing a college essay  essay or an article for the Eye, pull out any newspaper or magazine and keep reading. 

As I end my journey writing for the Eye, I’ve learnt that ideas are all around you. It’s hard to find, but you just have to keep searching until the blindfold falls off from your eyes. My articles have ranged from obscure topics to ones that touch close to my heart. And like I said before, only some of them were easy. But just as I got this idea after going through Writer’s Block for weeks, you will find that topic that you eventually can’t stop writing about. But you have to keep searching and keep writing.
It may seem hard to continue, but just keep writing and don’t stop. Credit: https://www.marshallcarr.com/just-keep-writing

Author: Aditi Balasubramanian

Aditi Balasubramanian is a senior at SAS and one of the Chief Copy Editors for The Eye. This is her fourth year at SAS but she has lived in Singapore her whole life. In her free time, she enjoys writing, reading and watching "Gilmore Girls"--which may have fuelled her interest in being a journalist. She loves anything with chocolate in it and Indian food. She can be contacted at balasubram47401@sas.edu.sg.

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