Italo Baudo: June 2013 Writing Challenge Winner


What does an Italian medieval town have to do with overcoming writer’s block?

More than you might think …

What’s your favorite technique for overcoming writer’s block? — I was asked.

I discovered the answer on a holiday trip to Italy, when visiting San Polo, a medieval town from 1300 A.D., enveloped by the vineyards of Chianti, in Tuscany.

Strolling through the cobbled narrow and tourist-packed walkways, as the sun was setting beyond the surrounding hills, I noticed that the brownish gloom of the buildings was brightened up by the lines of outdoor bistros and the flowers on the streets and balconies.

The richly aromatic mix of Italian coffee and jasmine filled the air. The boutiques selling expensive shoes, handbags, leather goods, and jewelry, and that overall ‘hustle and bustle’ of the tumultuous Italian lifestyle, added to the magic.

But, am I digressing here? What does this have to do with overcoming writer’s block?

Well, something you will always find in medieval towns like this is the bell tower.

It’s usually located on the highest point of the town. No matter where you are in your dawdle through the crowded streets, or lost in the medieval networks of cool and shady alleyways, it can always be seen, even if only the tip of the roof.

By keeping your eye on it, it acts as a beacon or lighthouse, guiding you back to the main square, lest you should find yourself lost in the labyrinth of the rustic sidewalks.

It occurred to me that this meandering through the street of San Polo was teaching me a good lesson on overcoming my writer’s block.

But, how so?

Thinking of the bell tower as the theme of my writing assignment, and using the metaphor every time I write; writer’s block will just disappear, I thought.

The bell tower kept me from getting stuck, or even worse, lost, as I wandered. And like a compass, pulled me back to my “north.” Similarly, I thought, using this analogy in the form of a mind map, would help me keep an eye on my theme, allowing me to unleash creativity without drifting far off topic.

You can try this. Make a mind map to structure the flowing of your thoughts as a basic ordering tool. Put the theme at the centre of the mind map and branch out from it, letting your mind range freely. It will prevent you from having writer’s block.

There is no limit to the number of branches and sub-branches that can radiate from your basic ordering ideas. Once you are at it, you’ll discover that nothing will “block” the flow of new words or ideas.

Your brain’s natural ‘completing tendency’ will assist you. You can cross-reference your mind map and you will know, at a glance, where to add supporting information, modifying it or expanding it as you wish.

This ‘bell-tower’ (theme) at the centre of your mind map will be the framework of your writing assignment. Good-bye writer’s block!


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