Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Writer's Block

I always thought writers block was a load of crap. Part of me still does. When I think of writers block, I think of tired, drunk wordsmiths too buzzed to crawl out of a bottle and sit down at a typewriter to bang out a page or three. Or, more usually, the image of Jack Torrance comes to mind. Sitting at a desk staring at a blank sheet of paper terrified to begin. So he types "all work and no fun makes Jack a dull boy." over and over.

It never occurred to me that writer's block might be more than laziness or alcoholism or the sham of an excuse for a different kind of narcissist pretending to be a writer. Instead I relied on the Hollywood clichés of lame excuses and pathetic losers.

But. This blog has pointed something out to me. I barely write. I rarely write. I don't write. And I've come to think maybe this is what those lazy bastards are talking about when they talk about writer's block.

I don't sit in front of a monitor staring at the cursor blinking away and curse my bad fortune to be bereft of ideas, or frozen by impossible decisions.

I don't ever get that far. I have plenty of justifications and poor excuses that keep me from getting that far. Instead I hide behind a busy schedule. My schedule is filled with ensuring that the average American's time in front of the boob tube doesn't drop below 12 hours a day.

It can be a full time job.

I'm pretty good at it.

My schedule is a bullshit excuse.

This next excuse is perhaps a little more valid, but just as easily dismissed.

I can't write about a bunch of things because they are too personal for the people around me. I don't want to hurt someone I love by writing mean things about them.

All together now, "Bullshit!"

If I can't hide the truth behind the actions of a story, or spin out some clever obfuscation, then I suck as a writer. Besides - if that is what is clogging up the publishing pipes, I need to write down that crap and get it out of the way. No one ever need see it. Then I can concentrate on the Space Opera rip-off of Elmore Leonard's Get Shorty! that will make me millions.

So. There is one more reason I often give for not writing when asked - and this one is a bit harder to dismiss, because I would have to start writing to prove its veracity. I tell people, hell, I can't write because if I did, I'd become OBSESSED. I never knew how to balance WRITING and other SHIT, so if I start writing again . . .

I don't want to get obsessed again.

All the above, even the obsession thing, are just excuses. The truth about me and my writer's block? Writing scares me. Lots of things about it scare me. Facebook updates and blog posts are one thing. But getting honest enough with myself that I can embrace the truth of a character's nature or claim to know a character's perspective? That is seriously scary to me. Maybe I should be able to make it up, but, for me, writing is an emotional reaction to the world (at least at first). And that reaction relies on true self-knowledge. Truthiness won't do. A writer needs to know some things about his work, his characters, his world, and himself, with a steadfast clarity to write well. To write honestly. Perhaps I've overstated my position here - I don't think a writer has to have achieved a Bodhisattva level of self-understanding to create good fiction. But the best writers have to at least be able to look inward with a clear lens and recognize their own foibles and shortcomings.

So I guess I'm admitting a fear of facing myself, or my past, or my "demons." That is probably true to a point, but the important fact, in this case, is that it is much easier to watch TV than go somewhere that may require serious introspection.

For me, writing has always followed a path. And that path is, or at least has been, pretty immutable.

When I started writing I was a barely a teenager and everything - everything I wrote was extremely personal and usually based in an emotional stance I wanted to take.

After a while I developed a voice of my own, but I was still writing poorly veiled descriptions of how I wanted the world to work or how I felt the world should view me.

It wasn't until late in my college work that I got to that point where I had actually developed a bit of craftsmanship. It wasn't all first-person accounts of being done wrong or saving the world or just being right. The characters had some complexity, and, best of all, they did what I told them to do.

I know I have lost my craftsmanship. But at least the ængst is slightly less bleak and woesome than it was.

I don't think I can skip any steps, but being not only a devilishly handsome, but a mature, devilishly handsome writer should allow me to compress some of the steps.

As a sidebar, I plan to write a little post about my short-lived effort to convert a story I wrote in college into a money-making e-book to capitalise on the lucrative ghost/human erotica genre. The experience was comical. I will put a link to that post here soon; by which I probably mean never.

I started this blog post maybe three or four months ago.

As you can see, I found more excuses to fill up my very busy schedule and avoid the curse of the blinking cursor. Well . . . then some things changed and then some other things changed and I found myself writing a bunch of emails for a particular readership with a particular set of goals in mind. These had to be a little more structured than my typical texts or venting diatribes my emails and facebook posts commonly become. And I had to lose some of the inside jokes about things all my friends understood to be my . . . particular . . . idiom.

So - That still is just a start. Not even that. I wasn't really writing. I wasn't crafting a story with plot lines or wrestling recalcitrant characters into the unlikely situations I had engineered. There were few reasons to resort to extended metaphors or build suspense, or whatever it is one does when one writes.

But it was more like writing than sitting on the couch watching TV affords. And best of all it was fun. I re-discovered the feeling of accomplishment a well-crafted sentence brings me. I enjoyed the whole process of playing with words and sounds and ideas and all the other fun afforded by the simple arrangement of 26 letters and assorted punctuation marks.

And, with the voice of Jeremy Clarkson echoing in my head, I thought, "This is EASY!" and stepped up my whole "playing with words" hobby. I started updating my blog. I started going on Facebook and announcing my blog updates.

I think certain of my friends (especially one patient soul in particular) would probably be happier if I forgot all this narcissistic exhibitionism. My readers would also probably be happier if I actually finished some of the shit I have started - I promised a monograph on Risk three weeks ago, and have yet to start it.

I know they are sitting on the edge of their bar stools with bated breath just waiting for me to contribute my learning on this subject to the collective knowledge of the great philosophers to which they compare this devilishly handsome man, your humble author.

See that - that right there is me descending into my own particular patois; a silly . . . idiom (stolen from my favorite hack sci-fi writer, Isaac Asimov).

That whole "devilishly handsome" schtick is a private joke that I assume only two of my vast number of readers (@12?) actually gets. But you know what? I don't give a shit.

The blinking cursor doesn't scare the bejeezus out of me any more.

I badly want to end this little note in a bottle on that . . . note. But I have more to say. I may actually have to edit this bit, re-arrange some paragraphs change some tenses. That would be one more step towards doing actual writing.

And that bit I want to squeeze in here is what I thought the point of this post was. Now this is where a real writer would edit this pile of weird shifts in tone and tense and subject - delete the crap, or split this into separate posts. But I don't care enough.

Now just wish me luck. I think I can handle this - but who knows, I may get so obsessed with writing that teh next time you see me, I'll be waving a cardboard "Please Give" sign at you from under the overpass.

I'm sure I'll be the most devilishly handsome beggar you are likey to ever lay eyes upon.

If nothing else, I'm sure there would be a book in it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am disappoint. The header says "Where Everyday is a Crucifixion" and yet so far I have seen NOT ONE! I come here to see people nailed to trees not read effluvium from your brain. NAILS! CROSSES! GET ON WITH IT!