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  • 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 coinedor inventedin 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 invokedor called uponthat 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!

Alice: Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I'm Alice.

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B1 UK alice writer block muse thalamus dopamine

BBC 6 Minute English August 11, 2016 - How to cure writer's block?

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    Brandon posted on 2016/08/17
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