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In many cases, the end of the year gives you time to step back and take stock of the last 12 months. This is when many of us take a hard look at what worked and what did not, complete performance reviews, and formulate plans for the coming year. For me, it is all of those things plus a time when I u...
How to Fight Writer's Block

It happens to all of us. We stare at a blank screen, watching the cursor blink and minutes tick, but just can't think of how to start writing. Whether we're working on the introduction to an eBook on a dry subject, or a mid-week blog post – some days the engine just won't start.

You need a boost. So, here's a good one to try.

Writer and editor Shane Arthur came up with the site Creative Copy Challenge as a way to combat writer's block. Each day, each blog post contains a list of 10 random words and phrases. Your challenge is to write a short story that uses all the words, and post it in the comments section.

If you're thinking, "I am already behind on my real work. Now you're asking me to write a short story?" Relax. It's not necessarily about length or narrative or having a beginning, middle and end. It's just about getting your brain warmed up by finding ways to put the words together.

When you start reading people's submissions, you see that there's an unbelievable range of responses, from two sentences to 200 words. It's kind of like watching how Iron Chefs are challenged to use the same theme ingredient, but end up creating wildly different dishes.

Here's an example of a recent challenge, with two very different "stories" that use same 10 words in delicious ways. There were more than 80 comments on the post, so there's no shortage of other examples. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Creative Copy Challenge (Jan. 21).

  1. One thing leads to another
  2. Ruffian
  3. Extrovert
  4. Tranquility
  5. Unlimited Access
  6. Lantern
  7. Dishwasher
  8. Coffin
  9. Barrier
  10. Between the lines

One story, submitted by Jaced, was short and sweet:

With unlimited access to barrier-less tranquility between the lines, the ruffian extrovert set down his lantern and converted the empty dishwasher into a makeshift coffin. Because, you know, what the hell. One thing leads to another.

Another, from Dallas, reads like part of a novel:

“I am breaking up with you” Angela said

I sat there dumbfounded, trying to read between the lines. Our relationship seemed to start as abruptly as it seems to be ending. I, Mr. Extrovert met her, Mrs. Tranquility at a bar. She had a group of friends. I went alone. There was no barrier at all between us, we just clicked and started to talk. I felt like I met an angel, her eyes lit like lanterns illuminating the way home. We talked for hours, one thing leads to another, and we end up in bed together.

That was a month ago.

“You are a scoundrel and a cheat. My mom says you are a ruffian, that you cheated with other women” She continued.

I felt like my brain just took a spin in the dishwasher, I was dizzy with disbelief.

“Look honey, I have not cheated on you” I said.

“Oh no, you have unlimited access to women with your bar-tending gig.” She screamed at me “Don’t you even try to deny it.”

I had nothing to say; my heart was broken. All I wanted to do was fall in a coffin and die.

Then, next week, I met Jasmine.

Read the original blog entry...

About Ambal Balakrishnan
Ambal has robust 17+ years experience working at and partnering with high-profile technology companies in both B2B and B2C marketplaces building scalable, reliable, high performance products (both hardware and software) for business with multi-billion dollar in annual revenue. She has done various roles that includes engineering, program management, business development, strategy and marketing for premium and fast growing product divisions at Cisco, Telecordia (prior name Bell Labs) and strategic marketing consulting firm ClickDocuments. At Cisco, she focused on world wide marketing and positioning of Cisco's Cloud & Data Center switching business. She brings both strong engineering & marketing skills with verticals experience from many different industries. Ambal received her Masters in Computer Science from Purdue University and an MBA in Marketing, Strategy and Entrepreneurship from Wharton University of Pennsylvania. Ambal is an avid reader and hiker. Her hiking pursuits have taken her to several mountains including Mt. Whitney at 14,500 feet (which she managed to climb in 1 day). Ambal lives in Austin, TX with her family of 3 boys (that includes her husband!) and a border-collie+lab mix dog named Rainbow.

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