Fighting the writer’s block

Fighting the writer’s block

With Benjamin Franklin by my side I stare into the nothingness of the oblivion of non-creativity: that point in time when one as a writer looks into the blackness of the beyond from whence good writings (and any other writings) stem. It is the ultimate frustration for any writer not to have any words to write on any of the numerous topics available, from the current affairs to the rememory, from the trending to the archaic.

A writer needs something to stimulate that part of the brain that dishes out words to write on any given topic. Without it, one is left in a dire-strait, an isthmus of a middle state from whence escape seems impossible. This occurs until one looks for the way out of the darkness of not being able to write for reasons often misunderstood.
The phenomenon that is called ‘writer’s block’ has been put up on a pedestal and honoured as if it is something good when in fact it is not. There are reasons why it occurs and this therefore means that there are solutions within those reasons why it occurs. There are ways in which one can beat the writer’s block.
The advent of the writer’s block and its incumbent inability to write creep in silently on the penman and the scribe, and once they get a hold of the doors to the room from which the act of writing finds its origins lock the writer in a mental prison from which escape may seem impossible. It is only a simple tool that is the key to getting out of the writer’s block: introspection.
Introspection follows a simple in-out pattern that one should always look at things from the inside before they venture to the outside, that is, one should first understand themselves before they go out and try and understand the world outside.

The inscription on the door to the temple of the oracle at the ancient Greek city of Delphi states, “Gnothi Seauton (Know thyself)” and for the longest time has remained a personal mainstay when it comes to the issue of dealing with the inability to write termed as the writer’s block.
The first and most basic element to a writer’s character is found in the ability to record what is going on around one as a writer. One should be able to observe and to make comments on that which comes across their five senses on a daily basis.
Losing the ability to observe and to comment seems to be the first sign that the writer’s block has crept in through either of the most prominent of the entrances that include complacency and egotistic tendency.

It never plays out well when one rests on their laurels after they have been honoured for great achievement in different feats they come across or engage in. The fallacious tendency for a lot of individuals these days is to accept and to embrace the celebrity writer status.
Lured in with interviews and showered with praises, the celebrity writer soon forgets to retreat to the secret place from where their best writing comes. What follows is the cacophony of the applauding masses of adoring fans; shutting out the man from himself and rendering the writer a floating dandelion in vast and open spaces from where the words to pen come from.
In simple terms, the fascination with the celebrity status has the tendency to lead the writer to forget him or herself. This leads to the loss of the salient aspect of inspiration to write or to perform deeds associated to writing.

The false largely held definition of inspiration is that it is the trigger to action, but the truth of the fact is that one has to act first before they are inspired into doing something. A child needs first to crawl before they are inspired into walking which in turn inspires running with the wind.
This same pattern follows in the life of the writer, who first has to know who they are before they observe, and can then put the plume (pen) to the parchment (paper) to record whatever they have about the world around them. This means that there is no time for rest but the constant return to self to enable one to observe the world so they can write about it.
Resting for a period disrupts the stream of consciousness, forcing one as a writer to return to the beginning each of the times they lose their flow. This is the point where one is forced to introspect and to reflect on the basic purpose that they first had before they got into writing as a profession or as a hobby.

Sometimes there is a need to retreat, but this can only be afforded by those with the means to live during the period of repose. Similar to a creature in hibernation that has to stock up before the advent of winter, the writer needs to ensure that they can live before they engage in self-reflection.
David Henry Thoreau retreated to the shores of Walden Pond to reflect on life, and his journal entry of July 5, 1845 states:

Yesterday I came here to live. My house makes me think of some mountain houses I have seen, which seemed to have a fresher auroral atmosphere about them as I fancy the hall of Olympus.

The Mount Olympus he mentions is the one deemed to be the abode of the gods in Greek mythology and the literal meaning could be that one needs to return to the act of reflection in isolation before they dare to write again.
In the current 21st century world where life is busy, there is little time available for such retreats to isolated spaces, and so the writer is forced to reflect on a more regular basis ignorant of the space and time they find themselves in.

One has to adapt to the pace and the cacophony of the concrete jungle where many writers are forced by circumstance to live to eke a living out of their profession. One in short has to find their comfort zone that engenders personal reflection in the discomfort of the hub of the city.
There are writers that came before us from whom one can learn a few lessons on how to cope well enough to prevent the writer’s block creeping on one. Among them is the man whose face graces the American 100 dollar note, Benjamin Franklin.

After reading his abridged version of Poor Richard, there are many wisdoms one quoted, among them the three which I have to cherish. From, “He that by the plough would thrive, Himself must either hold or drive,” to, “Great estates may venture more, But little boats should keep near shore…” there is wisdom in the words of the figure whose ventures into the literary and the scientific spheres of knowledge left the world a richer place than it was before he lived here.

There is in the words of these two stanzas two wisdoms: the wisdom of constant work and diligence, and the wisdom of self-reflection. One should always make an effort to constantly write if they want to hone their penmanship to a sterling quality. This constant act of writing should be equally supplemented with regular episodes of personal-reflection.
Benjamin Franklin is a figure who in his life believed in constant work; that one should always have their options and reflect on their failures if they wanted to turn them into successes.
For him, gain is temporary and uncertain, for as one lives, expense is constant and certain, this put in the simple poetry that, “’its easier to build two chimneys than to keep one in fuel” meaning that one should always venture to get whatever means of living that they can, for that is the origin of the wealth of any one in this world.

The writer should always go out of their way to get the story that will sharpen their awareness of the world and not only serve to glorify or ease the life of only themselves but also enrich the lives of others that come across the writings. The reality of writing is that imagination is a false room, for it can only be furnished by ideas and experiences that come from the real world.
Without experiences and observations, the imagination would not know what to make of the occurrences in the world. One first has to go out and see before they imagine a complementary or alternate scenario to what they have observed and seen in their experiences.
The reality of the matter is that the occurrence of the inability to write comes if one isolates themselves from real experiences for so long that they forget how to get a hold on what is going on in the world.

One cannot lie in bed and hope that they will have a story to write on traffic: they have to go out and count or chase cars to write about them. Out of experience come the wisdoms that help one to figure out how to make the best of their situation.
Out of what the writer experiences come the best stories, and this means that one should always dare to be at the forefront of the events before they can turn them into interesting stories.
Benjamin Franklin states that he always ensured that he followed the thirteen virtues that he found to be ‘necessary and desirable’. To each of the names of the virtues he attaches a short precept that fully expresses the full extent of its meaning.

Given for the reason of guiding the individual in day-to-day living, the virtues can apply to anyone that seeks to prosper in any given profession.
Listed in a paragraph, these are the wisdoms that made Benjamin Franklin one of the Founding Fathers of America, a polymath and venerable figure that stood for character, integrity, freedom and opportunity that came to symbolise the so-called ‘American Dream’. At the base of it all was the reality that Ben was a writer learned in different fields of knowledge which he applied in the solving of many of the problems he encountered in his life as a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, Freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humorist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat.

Starting with Temperance (Eat not to Dullness. Drink not to Elevation), followed by Silence (Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation), followed by Order (Let all your Things have their Places. Let each Part of your Business have its Time), these three are supplemented by Resolution (Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve), Frugality (Make no Expence but to do good to others or yourself: i.e. Waste nothing), Industry (Lose no Time. Be Always employ’d in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary Actions), Sincerity (Use no hurtful Deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly) Justice (Wrong none, by doing Injuries or omitting the Benefits that are your Duty), Moderation (Avoid Extreams. Forbear resenting Injuries so much as you think they deserve), Cleanliness (Tolerate no Uncleanness in Body, Cloaths or Habitation), Tranquility (Be not disturbed at Trifles, or at Accidents common or unavoidable), Chastity (Rarely use Venery but for Health or Offspring; Never to Dullness, Weakness, or the Injury of your own or another’s Peace or Reputation), and Humility (Imitate Jesus and Socrates), the thirteen virtues go a long way in helping one understanding the multiplicity of the streams that feed the river that we term as writing.

One as a writer is not subject to one source but is open to different and diverse numbers of streams that feed into the senses and consciences that supplement the act of writing. Having dealt with a countless number of episodes where the stimuli that feed the writing hand felt as if they were being shut down, the breakout and escape from the mental prisons of the writer’s block have always been breached by constant reference to the writers and individuals that came before.
It is not about one’s tenacity that they succeed but it is through following the guidance of those that know better that one pushes through the cobweb of experiences that may prevent one’s advance as a writer.

A writer is only worth as much as the advice he gets from his or her better seniors. Otherwise, one would soon drift off the mark into the territory of bad or irrelevant writing.
The truth of the matter is that one only gets blocked if there is too little or too much stimulating their writing. If there is too little, one should venture out and look for more stories to pen, if there is too much, then one needs to retreat and choose exactly what it is they want to write about.
Like a pride of lions selecting their quarry out of a herd of migrating wildebeest, the process of selecting what story to write about demands careful musing before action. One cannot write if they do not choose their position either inside or outside the box. It is all about choice to prevent the block.

Tšepiso S. Mothibi

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