Monday, June 01, 2009

Breaking Writer’s Block, Part 3: See Connections

This tip for breaking writer’s block cannot be overstated. Our failure to produce words is often the result of our failure to see connections between ideas where most people see no connection. Consider the connections that Mario Puzo saw between love of family and ruthless killing, which reaped him a fortune when writing The Godfather. Or the connection Pablo Picasso realized between contrasting perspectives of the human image in bringing cubism to a world audience. Or the relationship between electronics and music that gave birth to the synthesizer and forever changed our concept of music.

So there you are at work, stuck, trying in vain to get started on a report about a three-day information technology conference you just attended. You know what you experienced at the conference, but you don’t know what to write about. Where do you turn? The company’s mission statement? Its new initiatives? A market trend no one in your company has yet addressed? The clothes you wore today? The unseasonal weather? The Los Angeles Lakers’ chances of winning another NBA championship? A Rembrandt painting you saw at a recent art exhibition? The coffee crop in Bolivia? The sticky F4 key on your laptop? A 16-year-old high school student you saw in an elevator this morning with a 1950s hairstyle? The price of cotton during the American Civil War? The likelihood of Keanu Reeves recording a platinum song?

The answer is: All the above. As long as you keep your purpose in mind—to make the conference report relevant to management—you can let your imagination run during the planning or drafting stages. Let serendipity happen. When you’re struggling through a draft, take an everything-is-connected mindset rather than a self-defeating what’s-that-got-to-do-with-it attitude. Good things will start to happen.

Here are links to books on writing by Philip Vassallo: