Writer’s block is a place where people who like sitting around in their Target bathrobes and fuzzy Hello Kitty slippers live while they talk about being bloggers or writers or whatever. It’s an excuse for not delivering the goods, for being so beside oneself that nothing can be set down on paper.
Writer’s block makes me think of the old truism: ‘can’t means you don’t want to.’
The distance between can’t and don’t want to is measured in baby bunny hairs. If I sit down at 11:30 after everyone else is in bed and I can hear them sleeping, so much so that my heartbeat slows down to match theirs, but I’m looking at a blinking cursor that is out of sync with my beating heart, I am drawn, magnetized into quitting before I start. Who could blame me?
No one can blame me. For I would have writer’s block, the malady of the famous and renowned, the reason Hemingway went fishing for days on end and Fitzgerald draped himself on one bar stool after another. Writer’s block, don’t you know. The curse of the brilliant, the sensitive, the would be writer so busy putting a fine point on it that it can never be expressed.
I think writer’s block is a cop-out. Big time. And self-indulgent and too, too precious. It reminds me of my friend in college who was forever putting the back of her hand to her forehead and insisting she needed to lie down that very second lest she pass right out from the stress of being a college sophomore and having more than one boyfriend. Oh! Deliver me from this angst!
Whatever, sugar. You go lie down. I’m going to write this motherfucker.
I have advice for people who have convinced themselves that writer’s block is a legitimate malady and they have it. You won’t like it but here it is.
Write every day.
Don’t tell me you don’t have time to write every day. We’re not talking about War and Peace. We’re talking, at least for the moment, about a blog post. You have time for a blog post. If it takes you all day to write a blog post, that’s absolute evidence that you need more practice and should be writing every day. Either you’ve got actual writing (constructing an idea well) problems or you have a level of perfectionism that requires professional care.
If you’re a blogger, find something about your day, your life, what you read in the newspaper, and write a slice about it. Don’t write your life story. Write a slice.
Make it a fine slice. Make it true and make it ring true. But keep it at a slice.
Use a photo or a prompt. And do what Hemingway said, write the first true thing. I take this to mean write the first electric thing in my head. Last night, for example, I wrote a 33-word piece which was basically about an antique hairbrush, comb and mirror sitting on a dressing table in a restored lighthouse in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. At first, it occurred to me that the daughters in the family could be fighting over the hairbrush, then I thought about having the voice be a woman who had decided to maroon herself in her bedroom, and then, boom, it hit me, so to speak, and I talked about the hairbrush having left a dent in the baby’s head. Once I got there, the rest of the 33 words was easy.
I’m a bit past the middle of writing 100 pieces in 100 days (this one will be #59). Every night I think I should take a night off. I have nothing to say. Nothing occurs to me. I have what might be called writer’s block.
And then I have what might be called writer’s will. God damn it, I think, I am going to write something. And I do. Some of the essays in this series of 100 have been pretty decent. If I’d quit when I wanted to, they would not have been written. I would have watched 30 more episodes of SVU and had a lot less in my writer’s repertoire.
There is something to be said for mind over matter. And I intend to say it.
#59/100: 59th in a series of 100 in 100
Inspired by a prompt from The Daily Post.