When I was in college, I had the pleasure of taking a nonfiction course from the Writer in Residence, one of the last of the Beat Generation writers by the name of Chandler Brossard. I spent a lot of time in his office, taking his coaching and working to make my writing better. He wasn’t the typical odd-duck professor, but he did have several accoutrements of strangeness in his tiny space. One of them was a dartboard, complete with a throwing line marked on the floor in front of his desk.
I also took a course from another professor who shared a common wall with Brossard. One day, as I was sitting in this fellow’s office, I kept hearing this rhythmic “thunk…thunk…thunk…” on the wall behind me. `It was kind of distracting, but I thought little of it.
The second time I was in this gentleman’s office I heard the same sound again.
This time, my professor got up, pounded on the wall a few times, and yelled, “Hey, Brossard! Get back to work! Break’s over!” And the sound stopped.
When I asked about this, my professor explained, “Oh, that’s Mr. Brossard. When his brain gets clogged up and he can’t think, he throws darts until the words are flowing again.”
At the time, I didn’t think much of it, but several years ago, I received a dartboard for Christmas. I’m not a big fan of the game, but I decided to give it a try. I set up the board in my garage, and the next time I found myself stuck with my writing, I went out and just started throwing darts. And do you know what I discovered? Not only do I enjoy the game, but it worked. No more mental clogs. It might take throwing for an hour, or just a few minutes, but it changed my situation entirely.
You have to understand that darts are just a metaphor for any kind of distraction that allows a person to clear their mind. I play darts, sometimes I play a video game, or take my dogs for a walk. The only thing that matters is that I am not far from my work so that, when the words start flowing, I am ready.
Almost any distraction will work. My wife is a cancer researcher and works daily with overwhelming numbers of reports full of facts and numbers. I know that attention to so much detail, all day, every day is enough to turn anyone’s mind to rice pudding. It’s about this time that I will find her in her study with her computer on, and streaming a Netflix movie until her analytical mind returns.
Getting your mind back and having it willing to work for you is different for practically everyone, but it’s also important now to allow the mind to wander when the working mind returns. For example, I had a professor in college who was an avid gardener. Whenever she got “stuck” for words, she looked out the window until the words started again. She would wear just about anything while she worked but would always wear pantyhose with a dress since going without would cause too much temptation to go out and work in the garden.
It doesn’t matter what works for you. Whether it’s throwing a few darts, looking out the window, stretching, watching a movie, or gardening—with or without pantyhose—what’s important is that everyone has something that works for them, and puts them back into the frame of mind to continue writing. Anything that distracts you from writing longer than a short break is counterproductive.
- Temptations and Stumbling Blocks of the Home Office – by Jayne Thurber-Smith
- IT WAS THE NUNS’ FAULT! From Writers’ Block to Writer’s DELUGE!! – by George A. Tyrrell
- Laxative For Writer’s Block, Fan Fiction Opposition, And Event Organizer Incompetence
- Tell YOUR Story to CRACK Writer’s Block – by Dennis Peterson
Michael W. Michelsen, Jr. is a freelance writer living in a cultural wasteland commonly known as Southern California. He specializes in business and technology subjects, but is not too proud to consider virtually any subject. Readers can reach him by email, Muck Rack, or LinkedIn. Facebook does nothing but frustrate him, but if you insist, you can see his page here: https://www.facebook.com/mike.michelsen.35/
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