|is today the 29th? i've been a day behind all duckin' week!
||[Jun. 29th, 2007|10:10 am]
well, anyway [a day late] here's what i have to say about writer's block:|
What is writer's block? It'd be nice and smart-assed to say it's the worst feeling in the world but, like a lot of easy answers, that's a bunch of shit. Being told you have cancer or that a loved one was just hurt or that you're losing your job - those are some of the worst feelings in the world; staring at a blank page is pretty small potatoes by comparison.
But, like a lot of things associated with the arts and the non-life-threatening aspects of our lives, writer's block does take on the dimensions of a larger, more intractable problem to those it afflicts.
I remember reading in one of his afterwords that Piers Anthony insisted that he and Isaac Asimov were two of the only writer's he knew that never, ever got blocked. And his explanation, from what I remember, was that both set aside time to answer their fan mail. There might have been some small attempt at explaining that, along the lines of how it gave them a release from the work, or maybe just created enough cosmic goodwill on their part, I don't know.
Of course, I think I also remember another of his afterwords where he admitted that he no longer had time to send personalized responses to people who wrote to him, so maybe that notion didn't work out so great, after all.
I do know that, when I used to work at the newspaper, writer's block would hit me all the time. And not just on the boring stories I didn't want to bother with, either - sometimes, the ones I cared about the most were the hardest to put together. For me, the fear of failure is far more terrifying, far more paralyzing than any amount of boredom or lack of interest.
What I found worked for me, time and again, was to just start writing, simple as that. Anything at all, so long as there was something eating away at all that horrible, empty, intimidating white space. I'd go over my notes and transcribe any quotes or anecdotes I wanted to use first, of course, but that was never the hard part - that's just about on a level with sharpening pencils or flexing your fingers before laying them across the keyboard.
No, the tough part, the blankness, that awful lost feeling of "What am I going to do next?" would only really arrive once it came time to honestly get started with the writing itself, the process of actually saying something new and not just reporting what someone else had said or done.
Sure, sometimes the mere act of transcription would be enough to provide the spark, the idea, the impetous to get the metaphorical ball rolling.
Which was great, when it happened. Those stories usually came out all right, or sometimes even pretty good. But there were plenty more where all the quotes in the world weren't enough to really get me going and that's when, after an hour or two of killing time and waiting pointlessly for a muse to just drop the finished piece in my lap, I'd get sick of cleaning out my desk drawers or get nervous enough about the approaching deadline and just start writing.
Like I said earlier, anything. It'd often be sort of a run-on, stream-of-consciousness babble about what I wanted the piece to be about, with maybe some pep talk about how great I was or how terrible another reporter's recent effort had been, proof this didn't need to be perfect, just finished - things along those lines.
Sometimes it'd go on for a full page or two before I'd finally stumble across a sentence or a word or even just the kernel of an idea that I needed, but it'd usually happen, eventually. Not always, but I'd estimate my success rate up there in the 95th percentile or better - there weren't many stories I never filed something on, and none of them were hard news or on deadline.
So if I have any small wisdom to share, I guess, it's to just start somewhere, with anything, in the hopes of eventually winding up where you wanted to be in the first place. It's trite, but I suppose there's something to the Nike slogan, after all - you can't finish anything you never start, can you?
Maybe there's enough comfort in that to silence the fear of failure, I don't know.