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A Writing Tip by Eline Van Wieren

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It is a Monday morning and you’re ready to write. Your desk is cleared of clutter. A cup of your favorite tea is steaming next to your notebook. Maybe there’s music playing, something soft and instrumental. And the weather is nice and sunny. The pen that has the nice grip is hanging between your fingers, tip almost touching the blank page. Nothing happens.

The page stays blank, the tea goes cold. The blue sky of bright ideas for how the story should unfold totally covered with grey clouds. It seems like it’s going to rain, and you don’t like rain. But you said you wanted to be a writer. And this is what writers do. They sit their asses down and write. Because inspiration is a myth, there is only perspiration.

A sentence formulates in your head, but halfway through you think this is not is not a good sentence. I can’t start filling a blank page with a sentence like this. And you think of all those books with great opening sentences. And you think of all the bookstores filled with those books. Those writers could do it. Most of them aren’t even good writers, but they did it. So why can’t you do it? Why can’t you just tell the story? Just tell the goddamn story.

Get up. Get yourself out of your chair. Close the notebook. Get out your phone and google: ‘thrift shop near me’. Leave your tea to get cold and way too strong. Put on a coat, maybe even a scarf it it’s cold. Hop on your bike. (If you’re not from the Netherlands, walking or driving is fine too.) Skip the novels and non-fiction, go straight for the gardening book section. The ‘how to take care of your weird animal that probably shouldn’t be a pet’-section. Maybe even a classic like the artbook section. Definitely the section with books that fit in nowhere else.

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Look for the covers that make your brain go ‘ding!’. The one with the weird parrots. The one with all the floral drawings. The one from the seventies on fun holiday activities with pictures of model families. Whatever makes something tingle, wherever in your body.

Take them home. Get out your scissors. Put on something like Beyonce or a cool indie band that. Start browsing. Cut out whatever draws your attentions. Words. Pictures. A beautiful coffee stain. Do not stop until the entire surface of your desk is covered.

Next step: wander through your living space and gather your favorite books. The ones you read with a pencil in hand to underline the passages that struck you the hardest. And while you’re at it, get a glue stick and some blank paper.

Return to the desk. Now browse to your favorite books until you get struck again. Write the quote on a piece of paper. Lay it down on the blank piece of paper.

Now browse through the cuttings. Find things that complement the quote or do the opposite. Or maybe do nothing at all but are just pretty. There’s nothing wrong with a little pretty.

Find a composition that works and glue it down. Repeat once or twice or until you no longer feel like doing it.

Hang the pictures on a wall close to your writing space. Clear out your desk. Make yourself a new cup of tea, pick a different flavor. Get out the notebook with all the blank pages. Roll your favorite pen around between your fingers. Take a deep breath. Start again. Tell the story.


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