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The Write Way

12 December 2003

Aargh! I Can't Think of Anything to Write!


When I was in primary school and we were told to write a composition and then fold our arms to show we'd finished (but we couldn't think of anything to write about), we used to have a little rhyme that went like this: 

"Head thick, brain numb,

Inspiration won't come.

Can't write, bad pen.

Best wishes, Amen."

And that just about covered all bases in the Excuses Stakes as far as we were concerned.

Pity our teachers never accepted it as a reason for not having covered our requisite two pages in spidery schoolgirl script.

Their answer was always, "Put your head down and get on with it, girl! I expect two pages on my desk or you can forget about being let out when the bell goes."

What we wouldn't have given to have had a copy of Jenna Glatzer's book, Outwitting Writer's Block hidden under the desk, instead of that half-eaten Vegemite sandwich and piece of orange peel blanketed in soft penicillin fur from the last time it rained and we had to stay in the classroom to eat lunch. (Why is it, do you suppose, that schools always smell of orange peels?) 

But I digress ... Jenna (and I know she won't mind me being on a first-name basis like this) describes writer's block as "a beady-eyed rodent hiding under the floorboards ... waiting to rear its hideous head at the most inopportune times."

Fortunately for us, she also provides some practical steps you can take to banish this particular demon. Mind you, some of these suggestions are going to mean dipping into your Running Away Fund. How much have you got in yours at the moment? Hmmm ... Sounds like mine!

D' you think you can spare $6? Strangely enough, that's what Jenna's "$6 Solution" items will set you back if you decide to follow her tip.


"Cheap at half the price!" I hear you exclaim.

No, I'm not going to tell you what they are ... that would spoil the surprise. What I can tell you is that for the princely sum of $6 you'll have 6 little tools to help overcome the bane of all writers.

The book contains much more than just the Secret Six. (Does that remind you of the Famous Five ... and the Secret Seven books you couldn't wait to read when you were a kid? Oh dear. This is turning out to be a real stroll down Memory Lane!) Each of the 23 chapters in Jenna's book is liberally sprinkled with writing prompts, so you'll never be able to fall back on that lame excuse, "I can't think of anything to write!"

You'll be surprised at how simple it is to find ideas ... like our beady-eyed friend, they're lurking in the most unexpected places. F'r instance, have you considered the inspirational golden eggs hidden under the portly form of Mother Goose? 

One of Jenna's prompts is to rewrite a nursery rhyme. She suggests "a parody, a modernized version, or a just-loosely-based-on story."

Go on; try it now.

Pick a nursery rhyme. 

Can't think of any? That's no excuse. Here's a site with more nursery rhymes than you can poke a stick at: ... You can't wriggle out of writing that easily, my friend!

OK. Now, you just pick up your pen or place your dainty digit to the keyboard and write an extended version ... fill in some of the details conveniently omitted over the years. We all know about that Baa Baa black sheep, but is there any truth in the rumour that the little boy who lives down the lane is somehow connected to a bit of a fling the master had with one of the seven wives of that chap he met while he was going to St Ives?

Perhaps you could write an etiquette article for a teen magazine on just why all the girls cry when Georgie Porgie kisses them ...

Or a philosophical treatise on whether the Hokey Pokey really is what it's all about ...

Well, you get the idea.

Another of Jenna's tips is to try writing in a different genre - if you see yourself as a romance writer, try your hand at sci-fi or horror; if you normally write screenplays, try an historical novel and so on. This site has links to dozens of helpful resources for writing in different genre:

Get your very own copy of Jenna's book (or buy one for a writing friend) and toss a few cents into my Running Away Fund by clicking here.

This week's quiz:

Match the words with their meanings:

quixotic, gourmet, loquacious, hereditary, anachronous, insomnia, gregarious, polytheism, philatelist, diagnosis

1. loves company

2. inability to sleep

3. determining cause

4. extravagantly chivalrous

5. a stamp collector

6. talks a lot

7. belief in many gods

8. received from parents

9. out of time

10. likes good food

Now because it's fast approaching that gift-giving time of year, here are some suggestions for the not-so-tiny tots on your shopping list. Albert found these and, overcome by the spirit of goodwill, decided to share with us. And here's another great prompt for writing when you're stuck ... Invent some variations-on-a-theme toys! (While some of the locales may be a mystery to those of us who don't live in the neighbourhood, the characters are instantly recognisable!)

Mattel recently announced the release of Limited-Edition "So-Cal" dolls for the Southern California market:
 Irvine Barbie
 This princess Barbie is only sold at The Irvine Spectrum. She comes with an assortment of Kate Spade handbags, a Lexus SUV, a longhaired foreign dog named Honey, and a cookie-cutter house. Available with or without tummy tuck and face-lift. Workaholic Ken sold only in conjunction with "augmented" version.
 Tustin Barbie
 This modern-day homemaker Barbie is available with Ford Windstar minivan and matching gym outfit. She gets lost easily and has no full time occupation or secondary education. Traffic-jamming cell phone sold separately.
 Cerritos Barbie
 In addition to perfect English, this Barbie also speaks fluent Japanese, Chinese, and Mandarin. She earned a full scholarship to Princeton, even though she didn't need one. Comes with her own street-racing import car, complete with Japanese animation decals. Large collection of video games sold separately. Careers or homes for this Barbie are not available, because she will stay with her parents until they die. If you purchase a Ken doll, he must move into her family's home and wait for their inheritance.
 Van Nuys Barbie
 This recently paroled former "Porn Actress" Barbie comes with a 9mm handgun, a Ray Lewis knife, a Chevy with dark tinted windows, and a methlab kit. This model is only available after dark and can only be paid for in cash. Preferably small, untraceable bills. Unless you are a cop, then we don't know what you are talking about.
 Santa Monica Barbie
 This yuppie Barbie comes with your choice of BMW convertible or Hummer H2. Included are her own Starbucks cup, credit card, and country club membership. Also available for this set are Shallow Ken and Private School Skipper. You won't be able to afford any of them.
 Fontana Barbie
 This pale model comes dressed in her own Wrangler jeans two sizes too small, a NASCAR shirt, and a Tweety Bird tattoo on her shoulder. She has a six-pack of Coors Light and a Hank Williams, Jr. CD set. She can spit over 5 feet and kick mullet-haired Ken's ass when she is drunk. Purchase her pickup truck separately and get a confederate flag bumper sticker absolutely free.
 Newport Beach Barbie
 This collagen injected, rhino plastic Barbie wears a leopard print designer bikini outfit and drinks cosmopolitans while entertaining friends at the beach house. Percocet prescription and monthly alimony checks are included.
 Riverside Barbie
 This tobacco chewing, brassy-haired Barbie has a pair of her own high-heeled sandals with one broken heel from the time she chased Beer-Gut Ken out of Fontana Barbie's house. Her ensemble includes low-rise acid-washed jeans, fake fingernails, and a see-through halter-top. Also available with a mobile home.
 Laguna Beach Barbie
 This doll is made of actual tofu. She has long straight brown hair, arch-less feet, hairy armpits, no makeup, and Birkenstocks with white socks. She prefers that you call her "Willow". She does not want or need a Ken doll, but if you purchase two Laguna Beach Barbie's and the optional Subaru wagon, you get a rainbow flag sticker for free.
 Long Beach Barbie
 This Barbie now comes with a stroller and infant doll. Optional accessories include a GED and a bus pass. Gangsta Ken and his '79 Caddy were available, but are now very difficult to find since the addition of the infant.
 Rancho Santa Margarita Barbie
 She's perfect in every way. Her home is perfect. Her family is perfect. Comes with a part time job to earn her own spending money and a bible for church on Sundays. Also has a pre-assigned carpool day. We don't know who Ken is because he's always away hunting or biking or something....
 City of Industry Barbie
 This Barbie comes with a 1984 Toyota with expired temporary plates and three baby Barbies in the back seat, but no car seats. The optional Ken doll comes with a meat-packer's uniform and is missing three fingers on his left hand. Green cards are not available for City of Industry Barbie or Ken.
 West Hollywood Barbie/Ken
 This versatile doll can be easily converted from Barbie to Ken by simply adding or subtracting the multiple "snap-on" parts.

Chuckle ... I just love meat-packer Ken with his missing fingers.

Last week's quiz:

Match the short words with their long counterparts:

top, mean, dare, talk, low, explain, direct, dumb, peril, give

1. categorical - DIRECT

2. inarticulate - DUMB

3. decumbent - LOW

4. jeopardy - PERIL

5. elucidate - EXPLAIN

6. zenith - TOP

7. interlocution - TALK

8. pusillanimous - MEAN

9. subscribe - GIVE

10.speculate - DARE

Travel Tip

With so many people flitting all over the globe to visit family and friends in the next few weeks, here's an option for next time you fly: 

And you can stop worrying about lost luggage because they have an excellent baggage tracking system: "At SkyHigh, we don't like to think of your missing luggage as being "lost." Rather, that it has embarked on an exciting journey all its own. But rest assured, we're fairly confident your bags do still exist in some form and could be back at home with you relatively soon. With that in mind, let's see where your valued personal belongings are today!" 

(Click on the Global Baggage Tracker link to find your luggage ...)

Thank you to everyone who's made a comment on the Map of the World - it's never too late to make your mark:    

If you received this newsletter from a friend and you'd like to have your very own copy delivered to you on Friday, just click here: and why not spread the word? Send your friends a copy and invite them to join our merry band - we number over 8,000 now.

A Little Something Extra

Have you ever wondered whatever happened to ... somebody? This site settles a lot of arguments:

It sounds a bit macabre but is fascinating ... I spent far too much time on the Posthumous Reunions page!

Dave Wagner found this one on his travels and knew we'd all be interested.

And don't forget to try this easy way you can edit your work like a professional:

Word of the week: Mabble (vb) to wrap up.

"That just about mabbles things for this week, folks!"

Mmmm - definitely has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

Oxymoron of the week: on a packet of snack food ... "nutrition information"

Ask a question about grammar, punctuation or any other language matter; suggest an answer or post a comment on the all-NEW, all-electric, all tap-dancing forum:

A Latin phrase I hope you won't be needing to use with your plumber, electrician or mechanic over the holiday period:

Quantum in ura hora imputas? (You charge how much an hour?)

[KWAHN-toom IN OO-rah HOH-rah im-POO-tahs?]



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