If you have a problem, fix it. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing. - Ernest Hemingway

Monday, 2 February 2015

Creative writing and Will Buckingham

We invest a lot of time and money to travel around, see places, know the unknown …. After coming back, we share our travel stories and post pictures on the Facebook. But most of us don’t realise that we are on a journey almost every day, a trip no less fascinating, an unending, cashless journey that gives us perhaps an even better opportunity to see – let me use a picturesque Indian English phrase here – new new things!

Every new person we get to know could be as fascinating as a quaint countryside or an electrifying city seeped in a different culture. And last Saturday, I happened to meet not one but three of them: a Bengali couple and a British novelist, lecturer, and philosopher based in Leicester, UK. Suman, a publisher, and his wife Sathi are a wonderful couple and it was great meeting them. But now let me now share with you twenty-five minutes of a three-hour workshop.

Will Buckingham was in our English Language Centre to do a workshop on creative writing. My colleague Chitra, who was coordinating the programme, asked me to join but unfortunately, I could go in only for the last part, when Will was talking about writer’s blocks.

Every writer experiences writer’s blocks from time to time. They are strange dark periods of lack of inspiration and creativity. In times like this, a creative person cannot think, cannot relate to their world of writing, and most importantly, cannot put pen on a piece of paper. A traffic jam, a bottleneck.  

If you are a creative person, nothing could be more frustrating. And I understand this well because I know the neck more intimately than the bottle. Anyway, here is Will Buckingham’s prescription to get over the malady.

He asked the twenty-odd participants to do an experiment. It was a simple experiment to write – trust me – without THINKING. Our task was to write without interruption for seven minutes. And the rules of the game were: 
  1. You can write in any language;
  2. You have to keep your hand moving;
  3. You can write the worst rubbish in the universe;
  4. You can’t go back, you can’t cross out anything;
  5. You are free to wonder, and finally,
  6. YOU CAN’T THINK – let your pen do the writing.

What was the result? As I wrote and tried to live up to the challenge to write the worst rubbish ever written in the English language, I kept looking at the twenty-odd people through a corner of my eye.

And trust me, everyone wrote continuously, no one looked away, seven minutes flew away in no time, and at the end, every one of the faces in the room glowed with creative happiness!

The moral of the story is perhaps this. It’s not your mind alone, but your hand too writes. And don’t worry – just write – writing will take care of writing.

POSTSCRIPT: It was good that I accepted Suman’s invite to join him, Sathi, and Will at a pub in the evening. The place was chock-a-block with people and the loud music blared from a speaker right next to us was not good for my elderly ears looking forward to retirement, but it provided us with the perfect privacy for an intimate chat.

Thanks Chitra, for asking me to attend the workshop.

Kolkata / 2 Feb 2015


  1. Dear Santanu,

    Your words " It’s not your mind alone, but your hand too writes. And don’t worry – just write – writing will take care of writing ". I pause here for a second... How many creative writers use a pen these days, we sit before the computer and write with a keyboard instead...yes, the fingers convey our thoughts, but who knows the technology of tomorrow will not have enabled a writer to directly convey his words to the computer without even a keyboard, you just activate a button in your computer or cellphone and allow your mind to write directly without the use of your hand. Still writers block will be there, the mind can go blank at times...It is nice you shared your thoughts here.

  2. Thanks, Premraj. I can hardly write these days. I always use the keyboard. Yes, writer's block will always be there. I think what Will Buckingham suggested to us was not fundamentally new. I read somewhere - a good way to overcome depression is to do gardening. In other words, if your mind refuses to work, ask your body to lead your mind. And I am sure it would work ... at least in some cases. Best wishes.


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