Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home


Writer's Block

Writer's Block. To some, it might sound like a particular place where writers live. To some it might sound like som thing to block those nefariously irritating writers. To some it might be another fancy term to throw around but for few amongst you, for few amongst us, Writer's Block is a curse.

What it is:
Writer's block is a temporary phenomenon that causes inability on the part of a writer to write. This often happens due to lack of creativity, or inspiration. Writer's block can be closely related with depression or anxiety. Often, working-class writers have been unable to write due to social and economic circumstances. Writer's block also happens when the writer loses touch with his or her own characters.

However, writer's block is like an ebb and flow to the creativity process and is not permanent. Generally, it lasts for between an hour to a month. If it lasts longer you really are unlucky. Speaking of unlucky, Henry Roth holds the record for the longest writer's block- that of sixty years! After the publication of his novel Call it Sleep, hailed as a masterpiece of Jewish-American literature, he could not write for sixty years due to depression, political conflicts, and unwillingness to confront events from his past that haunted him.

Why it happens:
Writing is no easy feat despite what most people claim, and when it comes to creative writing, it's a completely different story. Of course, anyone can spew out words, string them together and claim that it's a piece of writing; but for the more serious minded writers, there are manifold obstacles between the heart (or brain if that's what you write with) the pen, and finally the paper. And we can all surmise how hard threesome relationships are to maintain. Sometimes writer's block is beyond a writer's control, however more often than not the writer brings it upon himself (or herself, as I am required to pen).

Sometimes, things such as lack of knowledge, research, brainstorming and outlining can cause a passing block. One cannot expect to commit directly to paper and create instant greatness. It may also happen that you have picked up (or been assigned) a topic which bores you and does not inspire you. Anxiety goes a long way in providing for writer's block. If you are unable to write for fear of how your work is received you may as well stop writing. You are first and foremost writing for yourself and NOT an audience.

A recurring annoyance to a lot of writers is their perfectionism. If one is obsessive about their writing, then there are various reasons for a persisting writer's block: inability to write down an idea until it is perfectly worded out in the mind first, self-consciousness about things like lack of expression, description etceteras or a general unease about how best to connect parts.

How to overcome It:
Sometimes, the best strategy is writing. Yes, despite your writer's block, WRITE. You don't have to create art. Just pen whatever comes to your mind. Fill up pages after pages with your 'doodles' even draw and illustrate if you feel like it. It is an easy way to get over writer's block, because the end result should always portray whatever is in your mind (if you are honest that is). You should have a clearer perspective of what you want to write about, rather than what you have to. However, if you've been assigned a task, it's a different case.

It might seem far-fetched, but relaxing exercises help writing. Relax as much as possible, you are writing, not fencing. Take a break from writing, and meditate, or do whatever you do to relax. However this is for a very general public. Most writers would rather not be relaxed while writing. As Franz Kafka said, “I have the true feeling of myself only when I am unbearably unhappy.” And Friedrich Nietzsche's “You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.” However, not everyone is creating literary milestones here, so, relax and feel good about writing. Don't force, or overexert yourself.

Do something you would not normally dream of doing. Writer's block often comes from a lack of ideas and inspiration. So get inspired. Attempt to spark your creativity by going somewhere or doing something different.

Sometimes, returning to writing after a brief hiatus helps. No one is forcing you to write. So take a break, maybe you've had just about enough of writing. Return to it after a few days (as long as you want to) and you'll see writing from another light. If you have ideas you are unable to pen, it is often better to write them down in however weakly constructed words, and returning to them later for a reconstruction.

Read. Watch. Listen. Often you'll be stopped from reading 'story' books, watching movies, or listening to music. Please do them all. However evil the television has been made out to be it provides with unending inspiration. Listen to music. Read books, when you can't buy them, borrow them, get yourself a library membership, acquaint yourself with nilkhet! Surf the Internet. There is a treasure-trove of inspiration out there, underrated by most people. However, recognize the line between inspiration and plagiarism. Inspiration to some level may even rob you of originality. Try to adhere to your own style. Emulation can be disastrous. If someone else has done it good enough to be known famously, s/he has evidently done it better than you have. Do not try copying. You may also try to write about why you think you have writer's block. If you think about it deeply enough it may just go away.

Finally, if all else fails, do what I do. Pretend writer's block is a fictitious state of being. Honestly, if there was not so much media hype about writer's block, do you think so many people would have it? What does not exist cannot harm you. Most people claim to have writer's block when all they have is a basic lack of creativity and idea. For them it's not temporary but permanent. Do not let yourself think you have writer's block. If you do, confront your reasons for having it. And with a completely purged mind, write. Write about whatever you feel like writing, because is that not what writing is really about?

By Ahsan Sajid

plagiarism gets plagued!

Internet: What don’t we get here? Just click a single googly button and even our average dim witted pig can acquire millions of rector and versos about its own primitive tape worming history, all neatly loaded in chronological order. Phew! No one really needs to cram anymore. Awesome! For example, you have a big report due tomorrow. Even though your teacher had assigned it to you weeks earlier, all those parties that jammed your schedule last week, just made it slip out of your brain completely! Now what? In the past, you would’ve had to labour through pages and pages of worthless piles of unprofitable information all night. As a result producing a lousy paper and in the end getting slapped by a big fat “F” grade the very next day! Is that injustice or what?

Now, thanks to the awesomeness of the internet and its genius of providing us with sites like ***********.com (society censors my freedom of speech, sadly), we can easily have tons of fun all throughout the year and still manage to ace our grades! Because someone else out there wrote our entire paper for us, for free! But wait, if someone else wrote it and we just copied it, doesn’t it make us cheaters? Doesn’t it wipe off that oh-so-obvious difference between us and that blacklisted, corrupt thief? Do we for once realize that while counterfeiting someone else’s words from the glowing screens of our computer monitors, we are actually branding ourselves as criminals? Do we even know that all those sites we think are helping us with their extended knowledge of all the ways once can steal, are actually clawing into our brains and sucking out all our ethics like some blood suckling death worm? Yes, we do. We know it’s wrong. Yet, we steal, we plagiarize.

Plagiarism, the act of copying someone else’s ideas, work or words without reference, has been very common globally for quite some time now. While once upon a time it cost a huge amount of money and burning ethics to carry out this act, today with the saintly internet flourishing and doing good to all human, plagiarism has spread like wildfire, and it’s for free.

As for the ethics, they’re still burning. Only everyone is much more enthusiastic about it. It’s obvious that from the direction I am going, I’ll be saying things like: ‘Oh don’t do it! It’s unethical. What do our morals say?’ Please! If I’m expecting that saying things like that will open the world’s eyes towards right and wrong, I’ll probably be our generation’s most tarnished dunderhead. Luckily, I happen to be intelligent enough to know that unless sin is caught and punished, it will continue to flourish. And that’s exactly what’s about to happen.

The Internet’s crime-fighting forces have geared up, and are already fighting back. As an answer to perilous sites like the Evil House of Cheat, fight back sites like Turnitin.com (the first of its kind) have emanated. Plagiarism is now considered as a serious offence by law and anybody who is caught will be grimly punished. Teachers all over the world are encouraged to make students submit their homework in soft copy form. They can then send the copies to Turnitin.com, which checks the internet for a minimum eight word duplicate. The results are mailed back to the teachers in a very short time. Educational organizations are already enthusiastically using this relatively new technology to catch plagiarizes. It's not only Turnitin.com anymore; there are hundreds of other police sites now which survive for the sole purpose of ensnaring copycats. Plagiarism is finally getting plagued!

I know that most of the times it’s inevitable that you take references from the internet. Is that considered wrong? Definitely not! It will be considered plagiarism only when you do not mention where you took your reference from in your work. It’s called the Harvard referencing system.

Whenever you are taking someone else’s stuff, write down the author’s name and the date of publication in a bracket. For example: (Bond; 2004). Just do this and you are saved. I know this is where the ego hurts, but trust me your teacher will be mush more happier with your honesty when you use the referencing system then when you don’t.

And as for all those parties that jammed your entire schedule last week, don’t lie! If you had genuine problems, your teacher would’ve understood. Since you don’t, it’s your entire fault. You should’ve worked from beforehand and not slacked. That’s what students are supposed to do. Now use the reference system and save your grade. It’s better than plagiarizing and getting caught.

By Loony Kim

Hats off!

Photo: Munem Wasif
The hat is or was at least a sign of achievement and authority in eras gone by. Hats and caps were often used in ancient times to specify a person's particular status or office such as sheriff or bishop. Till the 1960's everyone wore hats in the West. But then JFK was bareheaded on the day of his inauguration and the Beatles seemed to get along just fine without them- and so ended the era of wearing hats.

While the era might have passed, the fashion of wearing hats still remains. And while the functionality of it lies in the fact that it stops body heat from escaping through the head and shields from the sun, these days most people wear hats mostly to make a statement or project their individual style.

And just like all other things, when it comes to hats, our order is reversed with that of the West. In the West it is women who mainly sport hats while in Bangladesh it's just the opposite. Justifiably so, considering that our clothing is much more on the conservative side and doesn't give girls the freedom of donning on just about anything whenever they want. And hats teamed with a sari or salwar-kameez is a huge fashion no-no.

Nonetheless the hat hype has caught on and these days many youngsters of both sexes are seen sporting something on their head. Rumour has it that the open stalls of New Market are a good place to find trendy but cheap hats. I've also seen Soul Dance with a collection. Many clothing stores around town generally have a small collection. You just have to keep your eyes and ears open for them.

Different hats project different styles. Baseball caps are very sporty while beanies have a certain grunge look. Schoolboy caps suggest a very preppy style while berets have a more artsy feel.

But if you really want to make statement try a knitted, rimmed tam hat- nothing looks more Rastafarian, bohemian and reminiscent of Bob Marley than a tam! I remember in my quest for the perfect tam I scoured all the shops in Toronto's Kensington Market before finding the perfect multi-coloured knitted one.

Our young men folk seem to have a very conservative taste in hats. The most I've seen are baseball caps and a few Eminem beanies at underground concerts. But there's so much you can do with hats. So much you can say! The mere angle at which your hat rim is tilted makes for a statement of its own. And hats are an inexpensive way of jazzing up an outfit.

Everyone's got a hat. You just have to try a few on to find your one. So ladies and gentlemen if you're in the mood for a new look, you want to make a statement or you simply want to try something new, simply try on a hat!

By Tahiat-e-Mahboob


home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2007 The Daily Star