By Molly Dougherty, The Writing Center - Things have been a little, uh, hectic for the Maven these days, leaving the blog cruelly devoid of tips on How Not to Write Bad Stuff. But I’m back and sufficiently fortified with fabulous Trader Joe’s snax, so here I go. Words of wisdom. Deep insights worthy of being needlepointed on your grandma’s favorite pillow. Razor-sharp observations on the beautiful interplay of nouns, verbs, adjectives, subjects, predicates, and dependent clauses twirling across my computer screen. Here they come. Any minute now. Cantering across my cerebral cortex. Nothing. Typical of the Muse to abandon the Maven when she needs her the most. Okay, to get going I’ll take a piece of my own advice, something that my regular “clients” at the Writing Center have heard me say again and again, ad nauseum. Throw your spaghetti against the wall! Huh? Say again, Maven? Okay, bear with me. Anyone who has relied on pasta — especially spaghetti — for both its affordability and ease of preparation will be familiar with the practice of yanking a couple strands of spaghetti out of the boiling pot and throwing them against the wall to see if they stick. If they do, then that means the pasta is perfectly done and ready to serve. In theory, anyway. And what does this have to do with writing, you ask? Well, you know how sometimes its hard to get started? You’ve done the reading, gone over your notes, picked the brain of your study partner, and nada. The words will not tumble down from the top shelf of the overstuffed closet that is your brain. But through the ancient and world-renowned practice of spaghetti-throwing, this previously intractable problem will be a THING OF THE PAST!! (Or at least get a little better). To get past the terrifying blankness of the screen, start writing. Something. Anything. A point from the reading that really stuck with you. Your basic premise of the paper, written as if you were telling your mom about it on the phone. If you’re REALLY frozen, start with your shopping list, 10 most-favorite-ist Miley Cyrus songs, or what you’re hoping Santa will bring you. Anything to turn on the Word Faucet. Keep the words flowing. Don’t pause. Do this for about 15 minutes or as long as you can stand it. Soon you should start feeling ideas forming, nuggets of information beginning to gather, maybe even the rough outline of your finished piece starting to take shape: who knows? Now your spaghetti is starting to cook. The idea of throwing your spaghetti against the wall and seeing if it sticks may sound silly, but the process of generating words and ideas — even randomly — can help you move past the terror and immobility of writer’s block long enough to get out of your own way. And 9 times out of 10, that’s Problem Number One. YOU. (or in this case — me). So, happy ending, right? I got a blog post by using my own advice! It’s a WIN-WIN! But before I get all self-congratulatory, let me be you for a second: Okay, Maven, I’ve thrown my spaghetti, it’s on the wall, NOW WHAT? How do I organize the various starchy strands into something resembling a paper before they begin to adhere (perhaps permanently) to the walls of my brain? Well now. That’s a WHOLE OTHER blog post, isn’t it?
By nmatangi - October 24, 2013