Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Beating the block

Flickr/Rennett Stowe

I’ll be honest; I’ve got writer’s block. I’ll spare you the typical writings about the fall season. I’m determined not to write about the leaves, with their “splendiferous shades of foliage glinting in the autumnal setting sun,” and that with the changing of the eternal seasons, I, too, by an extreme stretch of the imagination am experiencing some grandiose metamorphosis worthy of being etched in the canon of literary greatness. If I have to read one more article about how “pumpkin-spiced anything!” is the best thing since sliced bread, I might vomit.

They tell you to write about the things you know – it’s writing 101. It’s difficult when we truthfully admit that not every day you are going to experience something radically, mind altering or even remotely newsworthy. This isn’t to say you are not an interesting person with keen interests, random hobbies or a unique past. But when that’s basically what defines everyone else and their uncle roaming around on this rock; it’s hard to say what significantly constitutes as something worth writing about.

Even though I am figuratively banging my head against the wall for this, here are some writing tips when all you can stare at is that nuisance of a flashing spacebar.

Comedy and tragedy

Write about your pain and disappointment. This may seem outright melodramatic, but every single person can relate because we are human beings, dammit, not apes! In all seriousness, take painful moments and try and find the humor in them.

Comedy wouldn’t exist if it weren’t first tragic. Think about it. When a person slips on a banana peel, it’s sort of awful, and awfully funny. Note: this tip may not come in handy for your research paper on biofluids due next Tuesday, but it could be therapeutic, as that in itself sounds traumatic.

Walk it off

Go for a walk, a drive, take a shower – just do anything else. When I can’t write, being stationary drives me insane. It’s hard enough for me to be mentally immobile. So to jumpstart my neurons, I find starting menial tasks, like laundry, the dishes or anything that allows my hands and body to move in a way that doesn’t require all of my mental capacity, to be helpful.

By keeping physically busy, you will automatically feel more productive, stifling your motionless anguish. Tedious tasks also let you mentally wander, providing the opportunity for you to continue on your pursuit of ideas.

Break down the breakdown

Write in increments. That biofluids paper sounds like quite an undertaking, and one that certainly can’t be fleshed out in a single sit-down.

Someone once rumored to me that President Theodore Roosevelt used to write for 10 minutes, then get up and do something else for another ten minutes before returning to write. He repeated this process until whatever he needed to write was completed. I find this to be extremely effective. Every 10 minutes of writing is its own minor accomplishment.

After doing this a couple of times you will undoubtedly have gotten the ball rolling and you may realize it’s actually been 15 or even 20 minutes since you sat back down.

Don’t scrap useless info

Write about the mundane. You might find there is something beautiful, sad or hilarious out of what would otherwise be cast off as just another day or activity.

Your observance of your surroundings during a moment that is often passed over could give you greater creative insight than you think. George Orwell once wrote in an article aptly named “Why I Write,” that one of his motives for writing was ‘aesthetic enthusiasm.’

Right now three pillows prop me up as I sit beneath my bedcovers despite being fully clothed, jeans on. My blanket is a pattern of intertwining red and white circles. The fabric is made of camel hair, making it sometimes uncomfortable to have directly against the skin.

Suddenly, I remembered I received it as a gift from a friend’s mother three years ago after moving from Arizona. There is a whole history behind my itchy blanket. Orwell clarifies his motives, saying, “So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information.”

From my self-pitying lack of writing ideas, a common form of pain and disappointment at this university, I’ve been able to sublimate that distress in my writing. I also managed to get my laundry done, which is commendable by everyone’s standards. Problems writing never made my sheets quite as clean as they are now.

Emily Felder is a Collegian columnist; she can be reached at  [email protected].


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