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The causes of Writer's Block and how to overcome it.


pencil in a knot

Have you ever thought of a brilliant ending to an unwritten poem floating in your mind while you run errands at the mall? You can’t wait to get home to put pen to paper and expound on this idea, only to open your book and have the blank page mock you?


Or… did you ever have to write an essay about your favorite subject, but you have not the slightest inkling of where or how to start, while the submission deadline looms over your head?


If that’s you, then we might have more in common than you think, because you, my friend, are experiencing the writer’s arch nemesis called “Writer’s Block”.



What is Writer's Block?


Definition:

-          Writer’s Block is a non-medical condition, primarily associated with writing, in which the author either struggles to articulate their own ideas or is unable to produce original work. With degrees of severity, this creative block can last anywhere between an hour to a year or more without producing any new work.

Other definitions:

-          The inability to begin or continue writing for reasons other than lack of basic skill or commitment – usually temporary

-          The unsuccessful attempt to put pen to paper while experiencing little or no meaningful engagement with the subject



What causes Writer's Block?


Before we delve into what causes writer’s block, let me stipulate that writer’s block is not a result of a lack of ideas or talent, as some may be led to believe.

In the 1970’s, two researchers from Yale, Jerome Singer and Michael Barrios, studied professional writers experiencing writer’s block in various literary disciplines ranging from screenwriting to poetry, etc.

Over several months the researchers documented four main triggers for writer’s block:

 

·         Apathy. These writers felt constrained by the “rules” of writing and struggled to find their creative spark.

·         Anger. These writers were often narcissistic and would get angry if something they created went unnoticed.

·         Anxiety. These writers worried that they weren’t good enough.

·         Issues with others. These writers didn’t want their writing to be compared to others’ work, resulting in a fear of writing anything at all.

 

Let us entertain the premise that these are the four official causes of writer’s block. We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that the causes of writer’s block are essentially psychological or emotional responses, which tends to make writing a fearful exercise.

 

Writer’s Block is psychological. Let me try to unpack it a little more. When forced to confront the issue of Writer’s Block in my own life, I always find myself having to deal with anxiety because I’m so critical of myself, to the point where I end up paralyzed and not able to think or write, then, I’d get angry because I tend to project my own dismissive attitude concerning my work, onto others without giving them the benefit of the doubt.


My social hostility is aroused because people tend to compare my writing to well-established writers, making my creative effort seem mediocre. Then, I’d throw my pen down, close my book in frustration, and vow never to attempt writing again. And here’s where apathy enters the proverbial WhatsApp group chat and all my confidence leaves.

 

I can personally identify with all four of the above-mentioned points. However, I would propose that we not belabor the fear factor and sum the causes of writer’s block up in two points, namely: Fear and Apathy.


The fear of my work being subpar among my peers causes my anxiety. The fear of my work being rejected riles me up. And the fear of scrutiny and comparison leads me to be indifferent towards the very people I intend to reach with my writing. So, shall we proceed with my premise of two points instead of the initial four? Good!!


Writer's Block: Beyond The Surface


The inability to begin writing, or to continue writing, is but a symptom of a potentially serious and underlying issue. So, allow me to pose my presupposition as to why I believe writer’s block is not about writing. Based on the research cited, following the pattern of logic and rules of deduction, I have simplified and summed up the four causes of writer’s block into two, and fear is the common denominator causing writer’s block.

 

Fear, in this context, is an unpleasant emotion caused by perceived threats or danger. If we look beyond the surface, we discover that writer’s block exposes parts of our psychology that make writing an unpleasant experience.

 

Fundamentally, writer’s block occurs when we unconsciously fight to protect our inner, most vulnerable selves from exploitation by the outside world.


Writer's Block: A Personal Example


The role of writing was always to explore the crevasses of my own heart in search of hidden emotions and attempt to express them through storytelling in poetry. It’s an unburdening process where I confront myself and work through what I’m feeling in a healthy way, as opposed to projecting and bleeding on those who didn’t cut me.

 

The goal of writing is to trigger emotions in others. When in the process of writing, I trigger painful and dark emotions, and cannot proceed from that point, that is in essence what we call writer’s block.

 

When my neighbor and best friend was killed in 2014, I was in emotional turmoil. I was still writing topical poems, but when it concerned how I felt about the loss of my friend, I would shut down for months not touching the pen. Only 9years later did I attempt to write about it and it happened organically because I changed the approach and avoided triggering my raw emotions, which would probably have led to writer’s block again.


Writer's Block: A Mental Health Issue?


If we were to examine Writer’s Block a little deeper, we would soon discover that some of its symptoms are addressed by psychiatrists, and thus, by merit, should make writer’s block a topic within the discussion surrounding mental health.


How did we go from simple writer’s block to mental health issues? Isn’t that a reach? Well, writer’s block is but a symptom; an indicator that there is a problem somewhere else.

Writer’s block is not about writing. It’s not a simple problem with easy solutions. Writing is a medium of expression; how we feel about ourselves and how we feel about the world around us.


Our outlook on ourselves is more psychological than anything else because no one can give us a better outlook on ourselves. It is an internal issue that we need to confront. Writer’s block originates from that very struggle. Writer’s block is a reflection that our inner well-being has, to a degree, been affected adversely; that’s why our attitude and behavior start to change. And that is what psychology is: the study of the human mind and behavior.


Overcoming Writer's Block


·         Rest your mind: when you’re thinking and writing too much, prolonged periods of working without rest will take a toll on your body, mind, and, ultimately, affect your creativity. Try an activity completely unrelated to writing.

·         Work your mind: keep challenging yourself to write. Do not remain idle. Keep your mind busy with non-strenuous, but mind-building exercises.

·         Fill your mind: when does anyone not have something to say? Strange concept, right? Not at all. You may have a lot to say, but it’s all unoriginal and uninspired. Reading a book, engaging in solid conversations, and doing research can really help in filling your mind with new information.

·         Free scripting: I write every day. That’s not a euphemism for ‘regularly’. I mean that I write every single day. It may not be the inspired pieces you hear or read, but I’m always writing. Even when I’m experiencing writer’s block, I exercise free scripting. It helps me sharpen my skills until such a time when I am able to continue writing inspired pieces again. One of the things I enjoy doing when I’m experiencing writer’s block is practicing writing topical or structured pieces, like poetry in prose or sonnets.

·         Eliminate distractions: the easiest thing to do while writing is to get distracted. Try turning off your internet for about 20 minutes at a time to focus on writing.

·         Establish a ritual: whenever you’re getting ready to write, meditate, stretch, listen to your favorite Playlist that gets you in the mood to write.

·         Affirmation: instead of criticizing yourself, affirm yourself by focusing on the parts of your process you excel in.


Final Thoughts


When we suffer writer’s block, we tend to ask how we could get rid of it, understandably so. However, seeking to “cure” a severe case of writer’s block without addressing the underlying causes is like sweeping dirt under the rug to hide it from visitors. You may succeed at first, but the more dirt you try to hide, the more uncomfortable it becomes to walk over the heap of dirt.

 

This article highlights some of the most common causes of writer’s block and some of the ways I think could help you as you seek to address them. Use the tips given to deal with the mild annoyance of not being able to write, but for the more severe cases, try a more therapeutic approach. In so doing, you could spark a flame of creativity within and you might find yourself healing other deep-seated issues.

 

I hope this helps you find ways to deal with your writer’s block so you can get back to writing inspired pieces again.


Let us know your experience with Writer's Block and some of the ways you overcome it.





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close up image of Mogale Sedibe
Mogale Sedibe Poet / Author / Entrepreneur

Mogale Sedibe is a South African based Spoken word performer and Children's literature author. In 2015 he published his debut poetry chapbook titled "His Thoughts" with Ink Sword publishers in collaboration with Department of Arts and Culture in Northern Cape. 2019 published his first children's literature picture storybook with Puku foundation in Johannesburg. Book titled Moshe Le Sefofane, a digital/virtual picture storybook. Read More



Mogale recently released his sophomore project titled: "Moya Wa Mutwa" and we had to jump at the opportunity to listen and review the project. Here's our breakdown and review.





official cover art
Moya Wa Mutwa art cover
official tracklist
Moya Wa Mutwa tracklist




First Impressions


Honestly, I took a few deep sighs before I listened. I had high expectations for this project and Mogale. I expected to be taken on a journey through the mind of a madman and by ‘madman’ I simply refer to the mind of an unconventional, out-of-box thinking kind of man. These were my first thoughts. So, let’s get into the project and try to unpack the mysteries and expose the mediocrities.

Spirit Of Mutwa


Allow me to preface my thoughts by saying that an introduction will determine whether your album or book is worth the time and effort you’re asking of your audience. An introduction will draw listeners/readers in or repel them. This, as an introduction, feels superfluous, but coming from Mogale, this kind of ‘extra-ness’ is kosher.

 

This album exists for a specific and special purpose and it was captured so well in the opening lines of the poem. This album is a celebration of the life and contributions of Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa in Afrikan literature, spiritual and traditional healing…

 

Having been drawn in from the start by the voice of uBaba Credo, then transitioning to Mogale giving us a breakdown of his thoughts (IYKYK) about the album, and going on to serenade us with sweet poetry as only he can.

 

I was on pins and needles when he said:

“I always thought insanity to be this dark room filled with echoes of whispers, projected by thought

Insanity is just a conversation between two distant thoughts, connected by an unseen umbilical cord” – I don’t know what would possess anyone to stop listening after getting such a vivid image of insanity painted in your mind. The chanting and choice of instruments give this song an authentic African feel and sound.


As far as intros go, this is one of my favorites thus far.



Ukushona Kwe Langa


This one is kinda trippy. The concept is clear as day, and the message to me is: search for the light, find the light, and be the light. From my time spent listening, I’d say introspection is the central theme in this song. Knowing personally that pursuing self-actualization bears a heavy cost, lines like: “I’m losing lovers while finding myself” resonate so deeply.

 

The call to acceptance of self despite one’s flaws also resounds. My favorite line in this entire piece is:

“And our deepest fear is that we are born healers into a broken system

We are magicians inspired by our own delusions

Driven by our own confusion

I’m speaking in my father’s voice”

 

As a side note, I wouldn’t advise having your wife and your mistress in the same room. (haha)



Consider


Are you a thinking person? Have you ever found yourself in the middle of processing something that you had to break down into bite-sized chunks first? Then imagine yourself being in deep thought and then you get smacked in the face by a child, disrupting your thought process and causing great annoyance. You can’t hit the child back because, well…they’re a child. Reality does that to us all the time.

Just like the music, I came to a sudden stop. I was forced to consider just how easy it is for us to fall into patterns, mostly the bad ones.


“There are bitter things hidden behind venomous tongues of introverts who are thinking loud enough to break the walls they’ve built around them” – words that hit us deep enough to make us think, but not hard enough to drive us to take action. Who are we? If we knew for sure, would we act upon that knowledge? The conviction with which this poem is recited had me sitting in silence for a minute. Let me pose this question: What separates humans from animals? Consider!



Swallow Me


If the soundtrack for a Western-themed was made in Mzansi, this is how I imagined it sounding. I love it. Shout out to Mali B-Flat and Mokopu Mokopu for this one! Brilliant team-up.

 

The wordplay in this poem is flawless! Mogale dug deep into his Poet’s Toolbox and chose to show off his technical penmanship. The interplay of words, manipulation of flow, breaking down the syllables to create a ‘faux homonym’.

“Release me from this malevolence

This mellow violence of abusive blues”

Apart from the 4-syllable scheme, the cadence and emphasis of the ‘B’ sonically mimics alliteration. This is undoubtedly my favorite poem to break down. And I could go on like this for days, but I won’t.

 

The narrative of an abused woman being forced to give up her dreams unwinds metaphorically in true poetic fashion. But, in reality, we see ourselves having to contend with ourselves because sometimes we are the aggressor and the victim. We may show the world kindness but are unkind to ourselves. We isolate ourselves only to harm ourselves. The first person we have to fool with our lies is ourselves. The biggest opposition we face daily is us. Mastery of self is the only mastery that matters.

 

The infusion of Pastoral poetry (poetry that romanticizes nature) gives this piece great depth and the poet should get his flowers (pardon the pun) for how masterfully he was able to weave this story together without losing the plot. This is POETRY!!!




Veronica


Okay… now we get to the heart-wrenching part of the project. I would love to offer my poetic commentary on this piece, but I’m trying to tread carefully because this is not just an allegory, it is real-life. I would hate to take the sting out of these very potent words. I’ll let the poet be Veronica’s mouthpiece and I’ll just turn the volume knob up a few decibels.



Her Memories


The first thing I hear when this song comes on is the seraphic, mesmerizing voice of the oh-so-talented Alexis-Rae. That should be all I need to say, and you’d echo my sentiments if you’ve ever had an experience with her.

 

This poem has levels of depth to it. I would classify it as an Irregular Ode fused with characteristics that define a soliloquy. It is truly a remarkable thing to see these two poetic forms in narrative structure. It’s not at all impossible to write in this manner, and I’m sure that it comes easy for many poets. But I’m not referring to the technicality of the writing, but the vulnerability expressed through stoic words.

 

It was easier to expound on this poem after my first listen, but now I find myself in bewilderment. Shouldn’t one be able to articulate oneself better the more time one takes to study and understand the subject? Well, not with complex things such as emotions. I am drawn into this story like I know the characters personally. This is one of those poems that disrupted my process.

 

Metaphorically, the overarching theme in this piece is exposing the hypocrisy in black communities. From family secrets to neighbors beefing. It feels like the poet is expounding of the story of Veronica. There is no accountability. In our conscience, we carry the corpses of people we killed in our hearts and then we walk past them and greet them with a smile. Hypocritical, much?

“They buried him an angel with his demons” – it can’t get more oxymoronic than this.




Poetry


“Poetry was found quivering on the cutting room floor

Slashed and bleeding from a razor-sharp red pen” – these are the opening lines of the closing poem. Is poetry dying? Has it already died? Not a chance!

 

It is through poetry that ancient knowledge is passed on to us utilizing didactics. The poet recalls part of a conversation he had with his father. There was an exchange of knowledge. Even as a grown man, you must know that you don’t know all there is to know about everything; that’s why it is imperative to listen and learn every opportunity you get.

 

With that said, Mogale puts on his ‘teaching hat’ and starts to count down from 9 and teaches us the significance of numbers and what each one represents. For the thinking mind, this will arouse a burning curiosity that will only be satisfied by seeking and finding understanding.

 

“10 is not a number, but a fact”



Rating & Final thoughts


At this point, it should become apparent that “Swallow Me” is my favorite track on the album, hands down! It is a mind-blowingly intricate piece of literature. This is the poem that stands out for me. I can’t name any track on the album that sagged. This album truly is a good listen.

 

I love how the essence of poetry was captured. The delivery is very unique. I listened to the album almost 10 times in an attempt to grasp the gravitas of the concept of “Moya Wa Mutwa” and here I am still trying to wrap my mind around it. I can see the influence of uBaba Credo and his teachings in the writings of Mogale and how they’ve shaped his worldview.

 

He did not overthink the concept and didn’t try to force uBaba Credo into every song. From the first track to the last, the Spirit of Mutwa abides.

 

My overall rating of the album: 3.9/5

The album could have scored a 4.5/5 rating, but I was just annoyed with the mixing on a couple of the songs, including my favorite:

“Consider” – panned way to the left

“Swallow Me” – panned mostly to the right

It’s an annoyance I can get over, but for now, that’s the rating I’ll give it. It’s no doubt a beautiful album. The best way I can describe it is to call it a symphonic, soul-soothing soliloquy.

 

Mogale, well done! We wish you the absolute best as you push boundaries with this release.

 

Let us know how you experienced the album in the comment section.

Also, let’s talk about the rating. Do you agree? Let’s engage. Looking forward to reading your thoughts.




Offical cover of Maru
Mogale Sedibe


Moya Wa Mutwa is available on all major music streaming platforms. Click on this link to listen: Mogale Sedibe: Moya Wa Mutwa



Follow and engage with Mogale Sedibe on social media.


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We had the distinct privilege to sit down with Alistair Noah, a talented and zealous young man with an insatiable love for art, and a heart that yearns after God's own - a modern-day David - a true embodiment of an Urban Psalmist.


Alistair Noah: All I Was

Let's get to know a little more about the man before we get into the art.


 

1. I'm sure people are asking who you are. Introduce yourself to our readers.


I am Alistair Noah. I am from Kimberley, Northern Cape, South Africa. I am currently residing in Cape Town, South Africa.

I am a part-time music teacher but a full-time Christian Artist and Musician.




2. I'm sure you didn't just stumble into music. There must be a story behind what we see today. How did it come to be?


I always loved music from a young age. My mother was a worship leader and spiritual dancer at church and my brothers loved hip hop. They were my first inspirations. I wrote my first song at 8, I picked up my first instrument at 12 and I made my first beat at 12.




3. Seems like our 7 & 8-year-old selves lay the foundation of who we become. Tell us a little bit more about your work. How many projects have you released, and how many are waiting in the wings?


I have currently 1 project on All streaming platforms and 1 on SoundCloud and YouTube exclusively. There are always songs and Ideas that are waiting for the right time to spread their wings.




4. Let's talk about your artistic journey so far. What has been a highlight for you?


Artistically, my highlight has been the making of 'All I Was'. It was really a beautiful process of growth and free creation and I feel like it can be heard throughout the project.




5. How would you describe the art scene where you're at currently?


It's vibrant here in Cape Town! The art is always reaching new horizons and the artists are full of passion. I am part of a collective of Cape Town's brightest Christian artists and they are always on the go! Ready for any event to display their art and tell their story.




6. How do you deal with everyday distractions?


I welcome distractions and choose to rest in those times, 'cause being an independent artist can be overwhelming and there are obsessive behaviors one needs to be aware of.




7. Tell us a bit more about your latest offering, "ALL I WAS". What inspired it?


"All I Was" is a testimonial piece of art, intending to encourage self-awareness in regards to all the "...seeds of lies sown in youth." (Wild Thoughts explains the benefits of breaking free from those chains through the means I chose. It was inspired by a time I had a breakdown during a missions trip in Citrusdal, Western Cape, South Africa. I encountered the love of God in an overwhelming way that challenged my thoughts towards myself and others so much so, I felt led to paint this story through the tunes.



Alistair Noah: All I Was cover art
Alistair Noah: All I Was Tracklist



8. Moving on from this point, what plans do you have for your music?


I plan to do more shows, I already have one coming up on the 25th of January, Thursday, 6:30pm at the Gangstar Café in Mowbray, Cape Town, South Africa. I too, want to release more singles here and there on TikTok, FM radio and on all streaming platforms.




9. What advice, if any, would you give to artists looking to come into the industry?


Don't give up cause things aren't happening as fast as you'd like. Things that are worth it take time, be patient with yourself, and love yourself and others enough to not compare. "...Chasing Big breaks will leave you broken..." (Broken X Blessed)




Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us for our first edition of the 'Silent P Blog'. We wish you the best in your future endeavors. With anticipation, we wait for what you're going to do next. Any last words you'd like to leave with our readers?


Come out and meet me in person on the 25th of January in Mowbray, Cape Town. I'd love to share more of my journey and hear yours. Shout Out to the 053 for making me... We taking the Y to the World ❤





Album Review

Artist: Alistair Noah

Album: All I Was

Genre: Christian Rap/Hip-Hop

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

 

Upon first listening, I was immediately enraptured by the production. It was unlike anything I had heard in a long time. The more I listened the more it started to resonate with my spirit. “ALL I WAS” is a project born out of deep introspection and honest reflection and contemplation that can be heard in lines like: ‘No matter how many messages of love that I got, I based my value in plays, I based my value in clout’ from the opening song, HALLELUJAH.

 

Alistair goes on to speak more about his internal struggles and how his faith in Jesus helped him gain victory over the seemingly insurmountable battles he has had to face. The song 'Broken X Blessed' paints a magnificent picture of this. We live in a broken world as broken people and we need to muster up all the optimism we can to still say ‘I am broken but blessed’.

 

I find ‘All He Did’ to be the most mesmerizing track on the EP. That portion of the song with the female clip had me feeling like I was descending into a trance-like state. I was drawn in like an insect into a trapdoor spider’s snare and just as I was about to fall, I find myself in the Amazonian Jungle again as the song transitions back to the original beat. Wow! What a trip it was!

 

All Is Not Lost’ has to be one of the most poignant and eloquently penned songs on this project. Giving hope to a world that is desperately seeking relief in the midst of experiencing unspeakable suffering. I hope this song brings you some peace as you listen to the testimony.

 

With the rise in social media activities, we tend to get caught up in a world of make-believe and forget to nurture real relationships, we are reminded and encouraged to “take time to learn the Father,’ because ‘There Is More’ to be found in Lord.

 

I cannot think of a better way to end this project than having your mother’s blessing on record. The topic of purpose is addressed in the title track, coming to the realization that ‘All I Was’ and all I am, was made to glorify God ultimately.


Sonically, the project is soothing. All the natural elements mixed in with masterfully composed synthetic sounds, gives the project a leg up on what is popular today. It is rich in content; it is truly an inspired art piece. It is not necessarily a ‘bar-heavy’ project, but you do need to listen out for those witty one-liners laced throughout.

 

Wild Thoughts’ is my personal favorite track on the project. Apart from the undeniably relatable content, I feel it is the one song on the EP that speaks to the poet in me with regards to the verse structure, metaphors, wordplay, and the beat is absolutely insane! Creatively, it is the best song on the project. Go listen and let’s engage.

 

It is always exciting when an artist takes an experimental approach. Alistair has managed to successfully blend various elements to create this unique listening experience. He’s  got great potential and I cannot wait to see what he does next. And until then, follow him on all social platforms.

 

What’s your favorite track on Alistair Noah’s ‘ALL I WAS’ EP?


Leave a comment below and let us know what you thought of 'ALL I WAS' by Alistair Noah.




Alistair Noah: ALL I WAS
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