Writer’s block is the ultimate out for those of us who can’t seem to get the juices flowing when we either want to write or need to write to fulfill our job responsibilities. Walking to the water tap only buys you so much time, and the more water you drink, well, the more you get to walk off to the toilet and spend more time thinking about what you’re not writing. When I’m “blocked” it’s easy to catch my mind drifting to my kids, or to the morning’s sports results, or the spines of the books on the shelf before me calling me into their worlds. I need to write, but oh, wouldn’t it be nice to explore the Sahara with William Langewiesche today, or delve into 19th century Congo with Adam Hochschild or…the list goes on and on. When I catch myself in moments like these the best thing for me is to give myself three minutes and force myself to write something, anything, that’s on my mind. That always breaks the logjam and usually launches me into a productive session.
When teaching at the Geneva Writer’s Conference this year I did this in my workshop, and scribbled for three minutes along with my class. Here’s what came out of it for me.
“Seven o’clock came far too early. How could it still be dark? I stumbled to the curtains and flung them open, expecting lights above the lake, perhaps the waning moon, an occasional car passing. But no, the sky was burning with volcanic flame, ducks floated in its reflection on the lake below, the silhouettes of mountains rose before the fire in the sky. Is that Mont Blanc? Could it be Mont Blanc? I wanted it to be Mont Blanc.
I was naked at the balcony, in need of a shower, but what was a shower and clothing and breakfast compared to this?”
Are you stuck? Just go at it nonstop for three minutes and that should free you up.
About Larry’s Corner:
Larry Habegger, executive editor of Travelers’ Tales, has been writing about travel since 1980. He has visited almost fifty countries and six of the seven continents, traveling from the frozen Arctic to equatorial rain forest, the high Himalayas to the Dead Sea. In the early 1980s he co-authored mystery serials for the San Francisco Examiner with James O’Reilly, and since 1985 their syndicated newspaper column, “World Travel Watch,” has appeared in newspapers in five countries, and can also be found on WorldTravelWatch.com and on TravelersTales.com. As series editors of Travelers’ Tales, they have worked on some eighty titles, winning many awards for excellence. Habegger regularly teaches the craft of travel writing at workshops and writers conferences, and he lives with his family in San Francisco. Click here to learn more about Larry Habegger.
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