Abandon normal instruments

by Scribble Monboddo

Writer's block has a long history in literary circles, but in recent decades it's been as much a part of the world of rock'n'roll. The stresses and strains of the 'difficult second album' are legendary, and attempts at finding a chemical solution often end badly. Time to call Brian.

Yes, in this episode of Brians of Britain, we're up to Eno, the eminence grise of Roxy Music who then became the inventor of ambient sound and, inter alia, producer to famously creative types like David Bowie. But even Bowie could get stuck occasionally, it seems, and Eno found a solution in a remarkable card deck still in use today, marketed as Oblique Strategies. They do what it says on the cover, meandering up to creative problems sideways rather than tackling blockages head-on, and using them seems to work - even beyond the recording studio. 

Shuffled at random, they throw up surprises, like the instruction to mechanise something idiosyncratic, and oddly enough that very randomness gets the creative process out of the slough of despond. Some of them might have made the musos scratch their heads but make perfect sense to stationery afficionados, for instance the rule that you can only make one dot at a time. Well, it has a sort of logic if you're doodling on a dot grid, doesn't it? Make a blank valuable by putting it in an exquisite frame.

Which is where Endless come in, curiously enough, with a pad fit for resolving creative block which is itself called, in appropriately oblique fashion, a Creative Block. Use an old idea, turn it upside down, and give the game away. Of course, you can do what you like with it, but rapid-fire ideation is probably its ideal purpose. Work at a different speed.

The paper itself is smooth to write on, but will absorb a fair amount of ink so this isn't for ponderous calligraphy - and that was probably never the point. This is not a bound sheaf of archive paper upon which to preserve your genius for posterity, after all; it's a problem-solving tool, to get ideas flowing and get whatever project you're working on unstuck. A Creative Block won't break the bank - while the original Oblique Strategies deck might cost a touch more - but combine the two and you won't be marooned staring at a blank page for too long. Faced with a choice, do bothFor those us who recall the dark days of the ponderous b-side, that'll come as quite a relief. Don't be afraid of things because they're easy to do.