BBC 6 Minute English August 11, 2016 – How to cure writer’s block?

BBC 6 Minute English August 11, 2016 – How to cure writer’s block?


Alice: Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English.
I’m Alice. Neil: And I’m Neil. Have you ever written
any poetry, Alice? Alice: No. Have you? Neil: Oh yes. I’ve got a sheaf of poems from
my youth. Alice: A sheaf of something means a bundle
of things, particularly paper. What about now? Are you still writing? Neil: No, my creative juices have dried up. Alice: What a shame! I would have liked to
hear some of your poems! Creative juices means a flow of ideas and the subject of today’s show is creativity and writer’s block which means not being able to write because
of a psychological problem. Neil: So not like tennis elbow or golfer’s
knee, then. Alice: No, Neil, because a psychological problem
refers to the mind not the body. And whilst some people view writer’s block
as nonsense others believe it is a serious psychological condition that can get better with treatment. Neil: Well, I have a question for you, Alice. How does author of the Da Vinci Code, Dan
Brown, deal with writer’s block? Does he… a) hang upside down from the ceiling
in gravity boots? b) clean his 6-bedroom house from top to bottom
with a toothbrush? Or c) run a half-marathon listening to opera
music by Richard Wagner? Alice: I think it’s c) run a half-marathon
listening to Wagner. Exercise and music might get your creative
juices flowing again. Neil: Well, we’ll find out whether you got
the right answer later on in the show. But first, Alice, can you tell us where the
term writer’s block comes from? Alice: Well, the term was coined – or invented – in 1950 by a Viennese psychoanalyst Edmund Bergler. Let’s listen to Zachary Leader, Professor
of English Literature at Roehampton University talking about the psychoanalytic theory of
writer’s block. Zachary Leader: Before writers were blocked
the other metaphors that were used were things like ‘drying up’ … or ‘being frozen’ or ‘stuck in a rut’ and so forth. And the difference between being blocked and
drying up is that in the case of blockage the problem is externalised and objectified … it’s not yourself that’s the problem it’s something that’s outside you like an obstacle or an impediment … something that you could really cut away, and as a consequence a cure like a growth or a foreign body. Neil: So writer’s block is a metaphor for
an obstacle something external rather than internal inside of you that’s preventing you from working. Doesn’t that sound like an excuse for not
doing anything, Alice? ‘It’s not my fault … this impediment thing
is getting in the way’. Alice: Yes. Well, impediment is another word
for obstacle. But how do you cut away a foreign body that
isn’t actually there? Neil: I suppose psychoanalysts have an answer
for that. But seriously, I think writers probably do
have a hard time. You can sit down at your desk every morning
at 9 o’clock to write but that doesn’t mean you’re going to think of things to say. Though we’re never stuck for words, are we? Alice: Not usually, Neil, no. But did you know that the Ancient Greeks had
Muses or goddesses of creativity … to help them? Neil: So… Beyonce isn’t a real muse? I’ve heard people say, you know, ‘Beyonce is my muse; she’s such a great singer, songwriter, dancer, role model!’ Alice: Well, these days, ‘muse’ can refer
to anyone who inspires an artist, writer, or musician. But in Ancient Greece, there were nine Muses and depending on what type of creative thing you did philosophy, poetry, science and so on you invoked – or called upon – that particular Muse to inspire you. Neil: I call upon you, oh Alice, to enlighten
us with more information about the Greek Muses. Alice: Alright then. So let’s listen to Angie
Hobbs instead. She’s Professor of the Public Understanding
of Philosophy, University of Sheffield here in the UK and here she is now, talking
about what the Greek Muses symbolized. Angie Hobbs: We’ve seen that the Muses were connected to running water, to springs, to fountains, fluidity. So if you’re musing, you are letting your
mind wander, you’re opening yourself up to new influences and new ideas, and not thinking
in too structured a way. Neil: Musing, letting your mind wander, thinking
in a fluid, unstructured way that all sounds very pleasant … maybe I should have
another go at writing. Alice: Well, according to research, some people
are better at mind wandering and opening themselves up to new ideas than others. Their minds work differently they have more dopamine in the thalamus region of the brain. Neil: The thalamus controls consciousness,
sleep and the senses and dopamine is the feel-good chemical in the brain. Is that right? Alice: Yes, and having more dopamine in the thalamus enables some people to see the world in a different way and they express this creatively … through science, music, the arts. Now, before you start musing on how much dopamine
you have in your brain, Neil, perhaps you can tell us the answer to today’s quiz question? Neil: I asked: How does author of the Da Vinci
Code, Dan Brown, deal with writer’s block? Does he… a) hang upside down from the ceiling
in gravity boots? b) clean his 6-bedroom house from top to bottom
with a toothbrush? Or c) run a half-marathon listening to opera
music by Richard Wagner? Alice: And I said c) run a half-marathon listening
to opera music by Richard Wagner. Neil: And you were wrong, Alice! The answer is a) hang upside down from the
ceiling in gravity boots. Alice: Really? Neil: Yes. I expect all that increased blood
flow to the brain is helpful in clearing writer’s block. Alice: Yes. Good plan. OK, here are the words
we learned today. creative juices writer’s block coined impediment Muses invoked thalamus dopamine Neil: So, Alice, shall I compare thee to a
summer’s day? Thou art more lovely… Alice: That’s not your poem, Neil … It’s Shakespeare’s! Well, and that’s the end of today’s 6 Minute
English. Neil: OK, I’m off to lie on the sofa and evoke
my muse. Please join us again soon! Both: Bye!

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