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Monday, February 13, 2006

Writing And Blogging: Beyond The Wall

It's finally happened. You've hit the wall. The dreaded writer's block has struck and you're being outstared by a blank screen. What do you do? Where do you turn for inspiration? The answer may be closer than you think.

Writers are often told to write what they know. So what do you know? My response: you know more than you think. Here are five places to look for inspiration.

Look inside
How do you define yourself? People describe themselves by age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality or, in my case, by hybridity. This last is a term used by Homi Bhabha to encompass those who have mixed cultural influences. My influences are the British and Caribbean parts of my heritage. Although these haven't yet made an appearance in my fiction writing, they've produced a couple of interesting poems. However you define yourself, there will be characteristics and issues to write about - and you'll have a ready made audience in those who also think of themselves that way.

What's the job worth?
The workplace is another rich source of inspiration. In addition to all my writing-related jobs, I've worked as a sales assistant in a bookshop, a receptionist/typist/temp (for three weeks), a human resources/personnel person and an English teaching assistant in France. All of these jobs have given me experiences and brought me into contact with people who might inspire a piece or pieces of writing. So what's on your resume (or off it) that might inspire you?

Family affairs
Casting the net wider, think about the wealth of experiences that you and your extended family have had. Marriage, divorce, childbirth, parenting and the like are rich fodder for writers. Medical and mental conditions such as gallstones, heart disease, hysterectomies, alcoholism, polio (to name only those that have affected people I know) can give you a starting point for an article or story.

Role play
Continuing the theme, your role within a family or extended family gives you even more to draw on. Are you a wife, husband, father, mother, parent, child, only child, sibling, uncle, aunt or grandparent? What have you learned from that role that you might want to share with others? Have you met anyone who seemed to epitomise the role, or someone who was getting it completely wrong?

Free time
Hobbies and interests are another rich source. I can still remember the pain of cross-country running around the school - and I'll write about it one day. I'll also write about tennis, badminton, volleyball, track and field, racquetball, netball, basketball and swimming. Don't think I'm athletic, I'm not. But I've tried all of these and learned something which I can use in my writing.

My point is that inspiration is all around you - you don't have to look very far. And don't think you have to bare all to make these ideas work. These are merely starting points for material that you may well alter and fictionalise completely. Some things have to stay private, after all.

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