by Henry Yew
The worst nightmare that a seasoned writer may encounter is writer’s block. Period. It is indeed a frustrating moment when nothing seems to be coming into your head, and nothing can come out of it either in writing. Worst of all, writer’s block can last for days or weeks, without anything to show for an individual’s effort.
Different individuals may have different approaches to get rid of writer’s block. Some would advise the writer to read up some articles or opinions that are posted into the media, and refute them if you find them utterly preposterous; yes, that is a good way of getting some material to write about. Others may tell you to go for a jog and look at scenes; you might just get an inspiration to write about.
For me, neither reading nor jogging has produced any positive effect for me when I encountered writer’s block. Yes, it is true. Despite being a seasoned blogger, and having written quite a few published opinions in The Star, I am not immune to writer’s block.
Usually there are reasons to why an individual would be struck with writer’s block. For me, I believe that the need to commit myself to some other pressing issues is the main cause of my writer’s block. For example, I have four conference papers waiting for me to be completed and I have to practise very hard for an upcoming piano concerto in June. With these commitments, it is difficult for me to focus solely on writing an article about anything – my mind wanders off to other matters easily, and I lose track of what I want to write.
Perhaps the most annoying thing that can follow a writer’s block is the fact that whatever you attempt to write may turn out to be of low quality – your words do not flow out as fluent as they used to be, you are not able to extend your ideas every now and then, your sentence structure may go haywire, etc. One will feel frustrated, and whatever that is written (even though it could have contained thousands of words) may ultimately end up in the Recycle Bin to be emptied there and then.
However, while times may seem bleak, the good news is that writer’s block is often temporary. When you have no other commitments demanding most of your energy and time, or when you come across an article within your field of expertise that you find utterly ridiculous, you can be surprised at how you can word your essays strongly and confidently.
I miss the days when I could produce a blog article once every day, or every other day. It has sort of struck me odd that the older I get, the less I write in my blog. I cannot be sure if it has got to do with my raging hormones when I was younger, or whether I have run out of complaints. Looking back at my blog posts, I seemed to be just interested in complaining about anything, from politics to education and social apathy. Today, perhaps I have come to terms of living with these problems, and I may have adopted the mentality that there is no point barking so much when nobody would give a tuppence about it; that is not something to be encouraged though.
Having writer’s block has somehow enabled me to reflect on the knowledge that I have, and the experience that I have obtained. Clearly, if one is not very knowledgeable about a particular subject, how would you expect them to write well about it? And if one has experienced a particular phenomenon, would they not be better people to relate about it?
The truth is that you can only read that much of material in a day and whether you have any appreciation for what you have read is entirely a different matter. Just because you have read a lot does not necessarily mean that you are very knowledgeable, but having given the subject a deep argumentative thought can help you develop other knowledge that other people may not have thought of. I believe that in this sense, I lose to quite a number of people whom I have met. Also, just because one has travelled to many other places does not necessarily make them a wiser individual. While travelling you can experience the outward differences that you compare and contrast with your own country, but knowing how the general population thinks or the principles that they uphold would require more time to understand.
It is, I believe, in this light that students who go abroad to study have an upper hand in understanding the social norms, the governmental policies, etc. of the foreign country where they are studying, and provide a more insightful comparison to the kind of norms and policies that we have in our country. I am of the opinion that students studying abroad can always take a leaf out of somebody’s book there and show us how things can be done in a different, innovative and original manner. As regards to politics, students studying abroad can then compare views on how just or unjust our governmental policies are.
It is not unheard of that some of the world’s prominent writers had travelled far and wide and lived in different countries to enhance their experience and knowledge. Rudyard Kipling and George Orwell are among the writers who have travelled a lot and lived in various parts of the world (Kipling was born in India and had travelled to South Africa, United States, etc.) and their works do reflect the places that they had been to.
As such, I do not see why students should not be encouraged to study abroad. Every student deserves the opportunity (with conditions, of course) to experience what is it like to be “out there” and when we come back, we should be a lot more wiser, and this should reflect not only in what we say, but also in what we write.
Therefore, my friends, if you find it difficult to express your thoughts on a particular issue that is hotly discussed, you might want to spare a thought to why you are at such a disadvantage. Rather than spending hours on Facebook and reading gossip stories and tabloids that hardly bring you any benefit (except for self-entertainment), you might want to consider using the Internet and your other resources in a more advantageous manner. It is ironic that Malaysia has a rather high literacy rate, but we are not known to be a reading society. One important question: how many of you actually subscribe to or purchase Times, Reader’s Digest, or the like?
Henry Yew was having writer’s block, which inspired this article, and still is.
Image taken from here.