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A well timed shot of whiskey can work wonders for the jittery, neurotic mind.It’s the shock to the system that works for me, so when I can’t start, there are alcohol free alternatives to get things flowing: a cold shower, an underwear clad run up the driveway, a shot of espresso, a peek at my naked wife, the list goes on. By this I mean I created a word document named “My Novel”, hit save and then got drunk with friends.If you can’t get started, your psychology is making the challenge bigger than you can handle. It doesn’t matter what the words are, but get them down. The voice in our heads is always saying something, so put it down.
Consider this: Have you ever been blocked while playing Frisbee? And remember writers like making up names and overthinking things: there is no term for architect-block, painter-block, juggler-block or composer-block. Forget the deadline and the assignment and just be an open mind with a pen.
Every creative pursuit faces similar pressures, but they don’t obsess about it the way writers seem to do. Remember that until you say you’re finished, you can break all the rules.
Don’t depend on these (as the more you use, the less they work, except for the last one), but occasionally they’re the only way. The next day, terrified as I was to return, I created a second document, called “My Novel – notes”. It was a hard core rule: If I had any idea at any time, I wrote it down immediately. I’d think of snippets of dialog, lines of narrative, names for characters, or bits of plot, and stick them in, rarely looking at the previous bits.
And in there I wrote down every idea that came to me about what might be in the novel. Eventually I had enough material to psyche myself up for the dive back into “My novel” as it wasn’t a blank page anymore. Groan at the pretentious ones (there will be many).
Go for a run, mow the lawn, chase your cat, do something to get your body moving, and your mind relaxed. Maybe take a bath, get a massage, have sex, anything physical and positive.
If you get into the activity enough I bet you’ll have a moment when your body is finally happy enough to let your mind do its work. Yes, alcohol is writing’s seductive little mistress.
Like a weightlifter out of his class, a writer with a blank page needs to lighten the load. I’m partial to the ridiculous, so for me it’s often Papaya, Pomegranate or Throat-warbler-man-grove (If you’re thinking that’s not a word, go back two paragraphs). Imagine yourself as a recording device, writing down the radio broadcast of some other person who happens to live in your head. In a pinch, or if you’re a loner, talk with your dog. If you know a writer friend, be writer buddies, available by phone to help each other get started. Opinions come easy to me, but some days I’m as indifferent as the wind.
In the grand tradition of lists and books of hacks, writing hacks are clever little actions that give you leverage and put the dynamics in your favor. If you think this is weird, write about why it’s weird (See: you can’t lose – there’s always a way). To get started I’ll read things that I can’t stand, express opinions in violent opposition to mine and, when pressed, are written so poorly my eyes burn straight through the pages.
I’ve forgotten A’s particular horrors, and jump in, possibly over the hurdle that seemed impossible before. I can’t write if my body isn’t happy and my body feels happy when it has been used: it likes to run or lift or almost anything.
So think physical: let your body get out the stresses that block your mind.