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You must have experienced it – and pretty regularly, I’m sure, if you’re anything like I am. I call it Blank Mind Syndrome, or BMS for short.
You start out filled with ideas and enthusiasm and energy, as thousands of words skirmish inside, all raring to come out and be strung into magnificent sentences and paragraphs. You’re feeling creative and powerful and confident.
And then you sit down in front of the blank computer screen or piece of paper and suddenly you’re blank too.
You make a supreme effort and write a few words. Then you read what you’ve written, realise it’s rubbish, sigh, curse, press delete and sigh again. You sit, adjust the jar with the pens in, fiddle with a spot or a fingernail, lean back, lean forwards, get up, sit down. You stare out of the window or at the computer screen or a blank piece of wall and disappear into a trance. This is all very well if you want to be meditating, but not if you're trying to write. You don't know you've been lost in a trance until you come out of it a couple of minutes later and realise you've been staring at nothing, and that your mind has not pestered you in any way for 120 whole seconds!
You think it may help if to go away for a few minutes, and decide to go and make a coffee. While you’re in the kitchen you think you’d quite like a slice of toast, and then you realise you haven’t phoned the person you’d said you’d phone/put the bread in the machine to bake/booked that dental appointment, so you spend an hour eating toast, drinking coffee and performing unnecessary tasks before you return to your writing space.
Pepped up with coffee and toast, you decide you’re going to make a real effort. But nothing happens. You curse or weep, convinced your creative juices have dried up and that you will never write again.
This is Blank Mind Syndrome (BMS). Don't worry, it will pass, but there are ways to accelerate its departure.
Here are 10 tips I’ve found helpful when assailed by BMS:
1. If you’ve written something, don’t delete it. At least if you’ve begun to write something there’s a possibility it may gather momentum.
2. If you’ve started, try to continue writing. Even if you’re thinking it’s rubbish, even if you’re despairing that you’ll never write again, even if it actually is rubbish. Just carry on writing.
3. Don’t sit and fiddle with pen-jars and fingernails. Focus on what’s in hand.
4. Although it does sometimes help to leave something you’re having trouble with, and come back to it later, don’t leave something just because you’ve run out of persistence. Stick with it.
5. Don’t invent excuses to keep you from returning. We could all fill hours and days doing things simply to prevent ourselves having to wade through BMS.
6. Don’t be cruel to yourself: Your creative juices are still lush and plentiful and you will definitely write again.
7. Set yourself a time limit. Decide you will write, rubbish or not, for the next hour and not delete anything. Remind yourself that no-one but you is seeing what you’re writing and that while you are writing you’re getting the better of BMS!
8. Promise yourself a treat. This is entirely up to you, but you could think “Right, after 200 words I’ll have a coffee, after 500 a peach and a 10 minute break, after 1000 a haloumi and hummous wrap…….” Whatever does it for you.
9. Don’t correct as you go along. Let it flow. If you stop to change a word or a description, you’ll interrupt that flow.
10. Forget the staring at the wall trance. Why not try meditation? It will surely help to change Blank Mind Syndrome to Blissful Meditative State!
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