Friday, December 9, 2011


"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." - Ernest Hemingway

     Blin•king•cur•sor•itis: n. A neurological disease closely related to Writer's Blockosis in which those infected stare endlessly at the blinking cursor at the beginning of a blank Word document, email, or blog post, trying to think of what to say.

I think I officially have this disease. In fact, I had to take medication just to write that last sentence. I hate medication. But that's beside the point if there is a point to be beside. In my case, the disease usually manifests itself when I'm trying to remember how to be creative, or when I have to make the first sentence of an argumentative research paper on ancient astronomy somehow sound interesting. If you've ever written a paper on ancient astronomy, you'll know why that's not as easy as it sounds. This is especially true if you're me, and you worry if you're sounding like a moose (however that's possible), or you place yourself in the shoes of Captain Nemo, the guy from 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, and wonder how he would handle the situation. In my case, by the time I've finished hypothesizing about how Captain Nemo would write a paper on astronomy, I will have ended up sounding like a moose anyway, and will have managed to slide, face-down onto the floor moaning, and without having written a single word.
While moaning for a while on the floor does tend to make things a little better, I'm going to play doctor here and prescribe a few things that have helped with my case of Blinkingcursoritis.

1. Pray on it. Maybe it does have cliche connotations, but this is probably the best think you can do to work through a difficult few opening paragraphs. "Humble yourselves, therefore,  under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." 1 Peter 5:6-7.
2. Listen to inspiring music. Classical is always good for important, critical, or analytical papers, Epica works for research projects, and period music is always the best choice for books or short stories.
3. Eat a cookie. Chocolate chip for maximum brain usage. I made that up.
4. Write a paragraph from somewhere in the middle of the work, or write a rough concluding sentence, then work back to the opening.
5. Outline. To use a metaphor, outlines are the dinosaurs in the natural history museum. Finished papers are the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. When everything else has decomposed, your outline should still be left. Make it strong.
6. Bang your head against a wall. It's scary how well this works.
7. Type a few dozen random letters and numbers, then backspace them all. It somehow feels constructive.
8. Come back to it. I have a really hard time with this one, but sometimes it can be best to let it sit for a while. Fresh eyes often times make all the difference.
9. Eat another cookie. Repeat, if necessary.
10. Start your work like you would start a fictional story. Dramatize your emails, hyperbolize your research papers, and enliven your newspaper columns. In some cases, it's easier to desaturate the drama out of a work to a realistic level than it is to work straight into that realistic level. 

So, the foregoing list is probably nothing new, but it's helped me get through a few tough papers this past week, and it's always a good excuse for eating cookies!

1 comment:

  1. I'll add some don'ts for Blinkingcursoritis:
    -Don't stare at the cursor for more than five minutes at a time or else your blinkingcursoritis will mutate into crosseyedotis. (This tip is from experience.)
    -If you are hungry don't avoid taking the cookie step or you'll soon find yourself typing and it won't be about ancient astrology. Food has a way of sneaking up into writing.
    -Don't ask family members what you should write for if they accidentally offer you a good suggestion on a hook for ancient astrology along with their other suggestions you'll be too frustrated to use it.
    -Finally don't forget that the world is larger than that blinking cursor, so when you're done shaking your fist and muttering at it's blank stare, remember to uncurl your fist before asking your Mom for another cookie.
    There's my two cents. : )