We need to ask, What is ‘writer’s block?’ And we should be clear, it is not a clinical condition the way it sounds.
Swimmer’s Ear. Tennis Elbow. Tourette Syndrome. Erectile Dysfunction. Writer’s Block.
So-called ‘Writer’s Block’ is a state of mind in which a writer’s brain is not being particularly imaginative. For mere mortals, I think it is fairly common. Quotes you see on Facebook (at least, I have seen) to the effect that for ‘real’ writers there’s no such thing as Writer’s Block are certainly annoying, but more to the point, they are just an expression of arrogance coming from one who apparently has a lot of natural activity in the creative part of the brain. Good for them. But even Hemingway lost it toward the end of this career after having the ability to write great stuff seemingly effortlessly, and then wax philosophic about it.
So I say, let’s take Writer’s Block down a few notches. Don’t resort to pharmaceuticals, and don’t define yourself by it.
When I can’t seem to get the motor running, I use a combination of going somewhere outside of the house, reading literature that I find the most brilliant and stimulating, and then, and this is the main thing, I muscle my way through (I did this yesterday). I sit in front of the blank page/screen for a long time doing nothing but thinking. Then usually after 2 or 3 hours (interrupted by coffee refills, ordering lunch, checking email, going to the bathroom etc.) I give up and just write something stupid:
“Dave was walking down the sidewalk.”
And from there I ask myself, What did Dave see? What interesting thing happened to Dave? And then I come up with, “Dave found something meaningful on the sidewalk” or “Dave had just emerged from donating blood, so he was woozy” or “Dave saw a homeless man lying still and feared that he might be dead…” And away I go.
No joke, it took me 3+ hours to get started because it’s been three weeks since I fed the monkey. I struggled with rereading everything I’d already written (it was a short story), but I knew that would take 20 minutes, and I would feel the need to start editing.
But I couldn’t think of something new and interesting to happen to my character. So I started with something stupid.
This may just be my new Writer’s Mantra. Start with something stupid.
Afterward, you can delete the stupid stuff. No one has to see it. The trick is letting yourself write something stupid. That may be the hardest part of all. Good luck!
Two new reviews of my book came in this week, this time from fellow authors. I sent each a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Both responded with strong praise both for my book and for me as an author. The first was Oliver Chase, author of Blind Marsh and Marsh Island. You can read his review here. He says,
“The reader should save The Former Hero for a dark Saturday night alone and with a glass of wine. Come to think of it, you may not wish to read the book by yourself. Put your latest Stephen King back on the shelf…”
Jeffrey Mays showed me what is in the art of the possible with his debut novel, The Former Hero. I hadn’t read anything as good in the genre of experimental literature since the early ’70s when Ishmael Reed wow’ed me with The Last Days of Louisiana Red. My appetite for classy writing is once again fulfilled.
My thanks go out to both of these guys, who have been at this longer than I have.
You can see links to all of my reviews and award on my Press page.
Hey everyone! Congratulate me today for being a winner in The Author Show contest, “50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading.” The prize for winning is this cool red medallion graphic that you see here.
Before you start fawning over me, clamoring for my autograph, jockeying for position next to me in my elevated status among the pantheon of literary titans, you should know that I have no idea what the criteria for winners were.
I know I was encouraged to solicit votes for myself from you, my facebook friends. It could be simply a popularity contest for the 50 contestants who got the most votes.
I also wrote a short essay about my literary journey; it could have been based on that too. I am certain it had nothing to do with the quality of my book, except that I proved that at least HAVE a book published.
Having said that, I would like to thank everyone who made this prestigious award possible, my manager, my editor, and the cast of thousands without whom I wouldn’t be where I am today. Thanks to the Academy. You like me! You really like me! And thanks to God and my lovely wife. And God bless America.