Playtime in the Library – Medicine against Creative Writing Blocks

A picture from my personal archive

I write for a living and sometimes, I get tired. I look at the blank page and don’t know what to tackle next. It seems so pristine and not really in need of my Ego-driven desire to record my thoughts on it. Whenever I face this ‘blank paper wall’, I remember the blunt advice of my professor of critical psychology ‘Go deeper into the unconscious, Alexandra’. I’m not quite sure what he meant by that – I probably should’ve insisted more in class for clear answers. So I devised my own strategies, aware of the fact that therapeutically I need to nurture my inner child when I feel blocked or slow down rather that pressure her; so each time I get frustrated with my work, I play. Several bouts of burn-outs throughout my career brought this point out very clearly: don’t take yourself so seriously or you’ll collapse under the pressure of wanting to control uncertainty; perfection, if it exits, is elusive.

What play means in this context, is that I visit the local academic library to switch up my writing routine. I go to the shelf of a completely different discipline than the one I am active in, and I select books with titles that draw me in. Then I open a book at a random page and place my finger on whichever page I feel guided to. I proceed to read and jot down the sentence that first appears under my finger. It won’t make sense initially why I would copy a sentence about car transistors or remote villages in the Pacific, but I trust my intuition and wait for the big picture that is created once I finish the exercise – it is also fun to discover other writer’ work in this spontaneous way, and writers whose work I wouldn’t normally read.

So, I repeat this process with as many books as I want until I get tired. I then put together all these disparate sentences together in a Word document and read this whole new, randomly-pieced story to gain funny and creative insights. It works! I have fun, it breaks my routine and reminds me why I enjoy reading and writing in the first place: because it’s creative!

To exemplify, below is the story I created today by randomly picking up books with titles I liked from the Philosophy, Arts and Biographies sections of my current university:

  • “Doctors also developed idiosyncratic relationships with machines and to technology generally
  • It’s the improvisation. With improvisation the great jazz musicians were just sort of …in the moment. They had no idea where they were necessarily going next, sonically.
  • It was in the loss of the Manufacturers and Liberal Arts Building, however, that Bancroft found both his “historical mythology” and its political theme
  • From this time on the true George Platt Lynes took form. As his finances prospered, so did his debts.
  • Imagine being forced from your home by government authorities and incarcerated in the stall of a prize racehorse, simply because of your racial heritage.
  • In passages that bear direct consequences for his students, Karpov championed an art that involved a “spatial extension” to entangle the participant, breaking with conventional painting, to an art more actively involved in ritual, magic, and life itself.
  • The transition from Piper to the Mythic Being is marked visually. As the artist’s identity dematerializes, he gets darker. In that way, Mythic Being overtakes Piper’s identity.
  • The effort to make art revert back into “life”, or to turn every aspect of life into “art”, simply emphasizes the vast gulf that exists between what has conceptual significance for a handful of people and remains business as usual for everyone else.
  • For the month that my daughter lay in isolation at UC Medical Center, struggling to stay alive after a bone marrow transplant, I sat with my husband either praying or drawing. When she had recovered enough I asked her to write her feelings into some of the drawings.
  • Disproportionately influential to the actual numbers who took acid and wore what could loosely be described as ‘psychedelic’ fashion, whether the decadent proto-hippie bohemian version of London, or the experimental glitter and glitz of the New York underground as typified by Andy Warhol and his entourage, the psychedelic and hippie style of dress ran parallel to the preoccupations of the mainstream sixties’ fashion industry based on the ‘Swinging London’ Mod look.
  • It is inconceivable to him that these close ties between art and society might in themselves constitute the equivalent of Western “aesthetics”, albeit in terms different from those in the West.
  • Vermilion’s ingredients were sometimes buried in dung-heaps to make golden pigments. So vermillion again bears comparison to the ‘vilest and meanest’, the ‘common’, ‘despised’ and ‘rejected’ Philosophers’ Stone – both we’re ‘amongst the refuse’.
  • It seems altogether likely that Cosimo wanted the three paintings, not so much because of his interest in the history of the city as because of the contribution they could make to what we might today call the “Medici image”, the reputation he was creating for his family, partly by means of architecture and works of art.
  • The journalist seems to have conflated de Loutherbourg’s faith healing and Hebraic interests; the former did keep him from his painting for a time, but the latter he incorporated into his art.
  • Soon Carr’s search took her increasingly into the forest.
  • To Albert Wolff, Manet had turned his young sitter into a ‘monster of a human nature’.
  • Family, probably the one of Jan Gerritsz – health and hygienic conditions in the 17th century are disastrous.
  • This Stone is of a great value if he be the great and fayre, and is equal for his bignes to anye Stone (Diamond and Rubye excepted) but is not so much harder then pearle, and Easley wearers rough/ ther is also another transparent Stone which we call Geratsolis which hath no cullors but a kynde of shining, and if the Sune or summer bright days light we are under it or within it.
  • “A seemly obscurantism” is Lowe-Porter’s translation of “eine ehrbare Verfinsterung” (literally, ‘a respectable obscuring’), which is also the title of this whole section, though she prefers ‘Drawing the veil’.
  • As far as business is concerned, there are booms and recessions; prosperity rarely lasts indefinitely. That is the nature of human society; that is the way of the world.
  • The victory should be treated as a funeral
  • An initiation ceremony into the Yoruba religion that I had begun during my fieldwork
  • To put it in a nutshell, heart-to-heart communication (xin yin xin) has long been an additional method by which spirit mediums can communicate with the divine in Wannian. It has been employed when spirit mediums are otherwise unable to interpret divine messages or need the deity’s immediate help. In the urban context, by contrast, heart to heart telepathy has gradually replaced vision interpretation as the primary way to communicate with deities.
  • First, it sees itself and then grows – only to destroy itself in harmony with the seasons and the cycles of time. But, just as with nature, the very fact that it destroys itself means there will never be a time when it is not about to return to bring a new sense of life back again.
  • Not to allow that the boundaries between the different parts of the whole are crossed, is a way to keep the cosmic balance and a task for the goddess Dike to supervise. Not only men, but also heavenly bodies have their dikes, which can be seen again as a balanced distribution of parts within a whole. For instance, in Heraclitus’ B94 the sun must limit itself to shining during the day, respecting the dike of the night
  • With Lu’s view of communication, bureaucratic paperwork took on a new significance. Paper work sometimes exasperated him.
  • I will make a road in the wilderness, rivers in the dessert – Isaiah
  • It is curious how in Guy Debord a lucid awareness of the insufficiency of private life was accompanied by a more or less conscious conviction that there was, in his own existence or in that of his friends, something unique and exemplary, which demanded to be recorded and communicated
  • I have noted that Suarez conceives of the voluntary as something essentially willed and subject to the will, whether reflexively in elicited acts, or as the object of a distinct act of will in imperated acts
  • What is the preeminence that each horizon claims for itself? We may first point out something it is not. My horizon includes, or contains, the totality I call ‘the world’; or as we have often put it, the totality I call the “world” is internal to THIS, to my horizon. Your horizon includes the totality you call “the world” (…) we do not share the same horizon, but we share the same world.”
A second picture from my personal archive

On a final note, if you are like me and hate re-reading your work (but nonetheless you have to read it for proof-reading reasons) I can suggest another trick offered to me by a friend: transform the font of your writing in Comic Sans (or some other equally silly font like Magneto or Showcard Gothic). I guarantee this will bring a smile to your face, as you see your ‘very important’ thoughts in an ‘equally important’ font. And you will laugh, laughter being the medicine of our souls and a relaxing way to unclench our busy (academic) minds. I hope these small exercises help you unleash those mythical creative juices.

With universal love (& banter),

Lexi ❤

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