No one is exempted from Elizabeth A. Ryan's “Dudley Doolittle", and no one could have coined a better name for every writer's enemy - the dreaded “block".
Dudley Doolittle (hope Ms. Ryan would not mind my borrowing) is a little devil that appears as soon as you grab a pen, or even while you're in the middle of a major writing session. You are so engrossed in scribbling your thoughts when suddenly you pause to ask yourself how could you write something utterly useless and - poof! Where have all those loud thoughts gone?
It is frustrating especially when you are cramming for a writing project such as an essay you only have an hour to write, because that is when Dudley likes it best.
I have imagined Dudley as a little red devil complete with a pointed tail, two tiny horns, little fangs and that fork which he should have left at a dinner table. He sits on your shoulder whispering negativity to your ears to lure your focus away from writing.
The truth is. . . Dudley Doolittle is that part of you that doesn't believe in your self. It is pessimism in action. It is your defense mechanism, meant to ward off embarrassment and frustrations before they happen. But such mechanism could never help you if you want to be a better writer. You would end up being unable to put coherent sentences together to save your life. If you dream of being a Sheldon, a Dan Brown, a J. K. Rowling or even an Elizabeth A. Ryan, brace yourself from lots of frustrations and embarrassments but be willing to accept them as part of the learning process. Take it as a christening. I know I have. And I'm not even an R. L. Stein yet. As long as you are not breaking rules nor stepping on somebody, there is no harm in trying.
If I have not magnified your confidence with my perk talks, here are some tips. Read on!
1. Have the courage to pick up your pen and let your heart out. Say what you have to say. Do not mind your grammar. Forbidding rules on grammar as well as rules on punctuation only choke you up, preventing your creative juice to flow and narrowing your exploration space. Write what comes to mind in fragments, jargons, vernacular or slang, or even in your abbreviations. There is only one rule to follow - yours!
No matter how simple or ridiculous it sounds, write it. Think about how laughable you are later. Just get it on paper!
2. Remember: you can write. Let it be your battle cry. You are an interesting person and you have something important to say. My personality development teacher once said, “Don't be inhibited by holding back. " Think of your accomplishments and recall how interested your friend was when you told her about it. Picture someone who would just love to know about the topic you are writing about.
3. Tune Dudley out through brainstorming. Let your thoughts do the noise. In brainstorming, your brain gets itself into a storm to spill ideas out onto paper. More often than not, you end up looking at a long list.
4. Writing more than one draft clearly reminds you that no one will ever get a glimpse of your early disasters. It's like practicing until you've perfected it. The draft is yours to keep, just to figure out what you can write.
5. You may pretend you are writing only for the eyes of close friends or for your grandmother who spoils you rotten and who will love and appreciate you, wrong grammar and all. Besides, what are editors for?
6. Stop worrying about “not knowing what to say". Often you may feel as though you've got “zero balance" as far as knowledge on a certain topic is concerned. But that is the purpose of brainstorming, my friend. Brainstorming is for you to know what you already know about the topic and fill in the gaps later.
7. Don't be afraid to be wrong. You may be holding back perfectly good ideas. Don't excuse yourself by saying your cerebral bank is empty or the “info feeds" in your school days as well as TV sessions (call it media bombardment) have been null and void. That is pure laziness. Take the trip down the memory lane.
8. Write as much and as often as you can. Make it a hobby. A journal is your best shot.
9. Write what interests you.
10. An added suggestion would be. . . by all means, meditate! If this doesn't help, you still have research to save the day.
More than hundreds of people could have been writers if they had not let Dudley get the better of them, if they had not held back perfectly good ideas for fear of being wrong.
So stop fretting. Get rid of Dudley Doolittle and pick your pen up for battle!
Sheryl Joy Olaño is a junior editor of publishing company CannonCreek Asia Inc. , where she deals with business news. A journalism graduate, she is a contributor of newspaper Sun Star Daily Cebu and a staffer of The Write Spot. She also writes for The Naked Press and Writing Village. A former literary and copyeditor of the Masscom Coordinates’ magazine, an award-winning feature and essay writer and correspondent for the Police Beat of another newspaper The Freeman in her college days. To keep her in touch with arts despite being immersed in journalism, she worked in a museum owned by the Ramon Aboitiz foundation three months before her graduation. She writes short stories, poetry and essays as a hobby. She has also tried her hands on a novel.