Category Archives: Writing

Lamps, Genies, and Writer’s Block

One night a man is out walking the streets when his feet stumble on a metal object.  He looks down and see’s a lamp.  The man sheepishly picks up the lamp and rubs it.  Poof!  A genie pop’s out.

Magic-Lamp

“All right!” the man exclaims.  “I get three wishes right?”, “No, no,” the genie replies “you’ve been watching too many movie’s kid.  I’m a genie, not a miracle-worker.  You get one wish”.  “One wish” the man laments, “that’s right, one wish.” The genie says, “So make it good”.

“Alright” the man says, “I think I’ve got it.  I wish there was a bridge from my house in Arizona that went all the way to Hawaii.  That way, anytime I feel like it I can hop in my car and drive to Hawaii.  No airplane’s, no travel expenses, just my own exclusive highway.”  “Are you kidding me?” the genie scoff’s.  “Do you have any clue how much hard work that would be?  Do you realize the materials that would take, how deep I would have to bury the pillars into the ocean floor, how sturdy I would have to make the bridge to withstand the elements?”.  “It’s just too much” he continues, “I’m sorry, think of another wish.”

The man thinks for a while and then again in excitement says “okay, I know what I want my wish to be!”  “Alright, let’s hear it” the genie replies.  “I wish I could understand women” the man says.  The genie looks at him skeptically.  “Yeah, you know, I want to know what makes them tick, what makes them laugh, what they like, what they hate; I just want to know everything there is to know and understand about women.  That’s my wish.”

The genie strokes his chin, thinking.  Finally he replies “so this bridge, did you want it to have two lanes or four?”

(cue laugh track)

So why do I share this joke with you?  A few reasons.  First, I love jokes (I consider myself somewhat of a joke connoisseur).  And more than that, I love jokes that have a bit of a story to them.  One-liner’s are great and all, but I like my jokes to have substance.  Some meat and potatoes on them if you will.

So why else did I share this?  It certainly wasn’t to convey a “be careful what you wish for” message, or to cast light on men’s plight of understanding women.

The reason I shared this joke is because I had writer’s block.  Sitting down tonight I knew I wanted to write a blog post.  And as it is a blog, rather than an essay, a prompt, or some other assignment, I essentially had a blank canvas before me.  Yet I had no clue what I wanted to write about.

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Everyone has suffered writer’s block.  Even the professionals I’m sure, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Stephanie Meyer (I’m only joking about  the latter of course).  There have been articles, and I’m sure even books about how to overcome writer’s block, “How to unblock your words for dummies”.  You get the picture.

For me, there has only ever been one way.  I don’t walk around my apartment complex (as my favorite songwriter Rob Thomas would).  I just start writing.  I get the words down.  Whatever comes.  If it sucks, that’s okay.  I’ve found once I start writing I will eventually find a rhythm.  And tonight was no different.  I thought I should tell the genie joke, not knowing how I would connect it.  I followed my instincts and wha-la here I am, another successful blog post to show for.

(Cue cordial applause)

So next time you find yourself spinning your wheels, simply spew out whatever comes.  And don’t be surprised when your writing picks up traction a few minutes later.  Who know’s, it might just turn out to be the greatest piece you’ve ever written.

Pursue Vulnerability

There is a somewhat common, and somewhat cruel practice often found in writing.  Author’s of novels, movies, and even advertisements use this tactic.  First, take the main character of your story, next think of the worst possible thing you can do to him/her.  And then finally, do it.  This was recently done in The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.  It isn’t a new practice though.  Wuthering Heights, Star Wars Episode 3, Gladiator, The Truman Show, etc. all employ this style of story telling.  Even advertisements have dabbled with this strategy.  I think we will all remember the Superbowl spot Bud Light produced 2 years ago where a rancher loses his puppy.

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This ad put both the dog and the owner through the refiner’s fire.  People loved it!  We love these narratives, we eat them up!  But why?  Is it because humans are pessimistic, sadistic or revel in others misfortunes?  Quite the opposite.

I suppose there are many reasons people enjoy these kind of stories.  It is encouraging to watch someone overcome obstacles on their way to success, after all everyone loves an underdog.  But I believe more than this, we are attracted to vulnerability.

In all of our day to day encounter’s people put up a front.  Ask someone who is suffering how they are, and they will respond “fine”.  It is rare to find vulnerability.  So when we see the layers of someones life peeled back to reveal the raw, human emotion and vulnerability underneath, we are instinctively pulled in.  People relate to vulnerability, and for writers it is important to learn how to incorporate vulnerability into your writing.

So want to make your story’s more compelling?  Wether you’re writing a novel, a blog post, an ad, telling a joke, or a personal story on a first date there is a sure way to do this.  Pursue vulnerability.