Writer's block, an owner's guide: It’s not all block (again)
A pause in writing isn’t writer’s block. You are allowed to go to the bathroom. You are allowed to go to a movie. You are allowed to go away for the weekend. You are allowed to stumble through bereavement. You are allowed to be chronically ill.
People talk about writer’s block as though all of that was not obvious. Here’s one. An anonymous writer reports that novelist Tom Sharpe moved to Spain and “found the place where he could break a 20-year writer’s block”. Read down a little and you find that, on the contrary, “Sharpe did not publish a book for 20 years principally because of a series of health problems.” Which of these is the truth? Your guess is as good as mine. But I think it would be good to know.
And most of all you are allowed to think and plan and edit: you are allowed to pause and let the ideas come by themselves: these things are what writers do. If you were just scribbling what came easily perhaps you wouldn’t be the writer you like being.
Published on February 27, 2007 at 10:31 pm. Linking to this article? Thank you! The permanent address is http://www.todayiwrite.com/journal/its-not-all-block-again.html
Writer's block, an owner's guide: Master and Commander, again
Now here’s a coincidence, even a synchronicity. Just yesterday I was telling you about Patrick O’Brian, in a long aside to what I was really trying to say about whether authors can just omit troublesome scenes. It was so long and so half-relevant that I actually wondered if I should just omit it.
And today, in a quiet moment between clients, I came across this thought, which I’m quite sure is O’Brian’s own, in the mouths of two of his regular characters: “Are endings really so very important? Sterne did quite well without one; and often an unfinished picture is all the more interesting for the bare canvas… The conventional ending, with virtue rewarded and losses ends tied up is often sadly chilling; and its platitude and falsity tend to infect what has gone before, however excellent. Many books would be far better without their last chapter: or at least with no more than a brief, cool, unemotional statement of the outcome.”
When we’re having trouble with a scene and we’re tempted to label that as the work of the imaginary demon Wr*t*r’s Bl*ck, another possibility is that the scene does not belong in the work at all.
Published on December 2, 2006 at 3:47 pm. Linking to this article? Thank you! The permanent address is http://www.todayiwrite.com/journal/master-and-commander-again.html
Writer's block, an owner's guide: Good days and wrenching days
Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cunningham says this about writer’s block: “When I was younger, I became obsessed with trying to chart my good days and my bad. Was it related to sleep, diet, sex? I tried all kinds of variations, with the grim purpose of youth. Celibacy the day before a writing day? I’ll give it a try. What about sugar, caffeine, alcohol? More, or less, of each, and in what quantities? Many trials were conducted.”
The results of his trials, and much else on the subject, over here at npr.org.
But what I find even more interesting than that is when he says “Here’s the funny thing — a month or so later, I can’t tell what I wrote on the ecstatic days from what I wrote on the wrenching ones. The lines that seemed so good when I wrote them turn out, later on, to be neither better nor worse.” That’s encouraging, isn’t it, on a bad day?
And discouraging on a bad one, I suppose, but let’s not go there.
For it’s the end of November and I’ve completed my month of research data collection! and now I have to analyze it all. Looks like a simple job this year, but who knows where studying the numbers may take me. I promise to let you know.
Published on November 30, 2006 at 7:51 am. Linking to this article? Thank you! The permanent address is http://www.todayiwrite.com/journal/good-days-and-wrenching-days.html
Writer's block, an owner's guide: Sometimes a pause is just a preparation
In The Good 5c Cigar (would I make this stuff up? -click it and see) Patricia Spears Jones says “don’t call it writer’s block. Call it life.”
Writers need time away from the page, time to let ideas come, time to let things develop. Other creators show that much respect for their work: why not authors? If your “friends” think you are idling, let them (or do something else at the same time).
And if we really knew this, we would not believe in block, and then we would stop worrying about it, and then we would write.
Published on November 17, 2006 at 11:25 pm. Linking to this article? Thank you! The permanent address is http://www.todayiwrite.com/journal/sometimes-a-pause-is-just-a-preparation.html
Writer's block, an owner's guide: Nip/Tuck
Here, on the web site of The Writers’ Guild (no, not WGA, but The Writers’ Guild, the one I belong to), is the writer-director of Nip/Tuck talking: “Because I used to be a journalist, I was never allowed the benefit of writer’s block. I’d have to write three stories a day, so that’s never been a problem.”
I’ve heard this before from journalists. I married one, so I hear it quite a lot. And the first of my nine billion writer’s block research projects was with a radio journalist.
What can we learn from Ryan Murphy? Well: think about the power a deadline has to make you get work done. You know that you always do what you have to do.
But it has to be a real deadline. Not “I’ve decided to do this tonight.” Not “I need this for a good grade on a class I don’t care about in the first place.” No, a real deadline. Like a contract penalty, or being seen in front of the tv camera with no news, or having to report in with your coach.
Published on November 15, 2006 at 11:06 pm. Linking to this article? Thank you! The permanent address is http://www.todayiwrite.com/journal/niptuck.html
Writer's block, an owner's guide: A bike with no brakes and no gears
In honor of NaNoWriMo there is a series of interesting / useful interviews with authors, about “the essence of noveling: how they write, how they overcome writer’s block and their best written sentence” over on NPR’s website.
I’m indebted to the web site of something called the National Book Critics Circle for this information.
Published on November 13, 2006 at 11:43 pm. Linking to this article? Thank you! The permanent address is http://www.todayiwrite.com/journal/a-bike-with-no-brakes-and-no-gears.html
Writer's block, an owner's guide: Velcro butt
I have a hundred or more random quotes here on writer’s block; few of them directly address our topic of “the psychology of writer’s block” but what the heck. Here’s one: “I don’t know. Do you consider 116 rejections hard?”
Published on September 24, 2006 at 9:47 pm. Linking to this article? Thank you! The permanent address is http://www.todayiwrite.com/journal/velcro-butt.html
Writer's block, an owner's guide: Talent without (immediate) production
Still no time for this, although things do seem to be coming together and in a couple of weeks I’ll be complaining there’s not enough to do. Here’s a story of one of our greatest wordsmiths:
A friend came to visit James Joyce one day and found the great man sprawled across his writing desk in a posture of utter despair.
“James, what’s wrong?” the friend asked. “Is it the work?”
Joyce indicated assent without even raising his head to look at his friend. Of course it was the work; isn’t it always?
“How many words did you get today?” the friend pursued.
Joyce (still in despair, still sprawled facedown on his desk): “Seven.”
“Seven? But James… that’s good, at least for you.”
“Yes,” Joyce said, finally looking up. “I suppose it is… but I don’t know what order they go in!”
from On Writing : A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Here’s a similar thought in eight words.
I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done. Steven Wright
Both of these, and a whole lot more of the same, from talentdevelop.com, an interesting web site I came across while doing something utterly different, and which I may come across again quite soon. In fact I like the site so much I believe I’ll subscribe to its newsletter just so as to be reminded every few weeks that it exists.
Published on August 2, 2005 at 8:30 am. Linking to this article? Thank you! The permanent address is http://www.todayiwrite.com/journal/talent-without-immediate-production.html
Writer's block, an owner's guide: Quote: Robert B Parker
Bloomberg: You once said that you wonder why plumbers never come down with plumber’s block. Are writers just like any other manual laborers?
Robert B Parker: No, they’re not. But I am impatient with people who talk about how they sweat blood when they’re trying to write a paragraph. Elmore Leonard says that writer’s block is another word for lazy. And I have never had writer’s block. Now, you know, other people do. So, get over it, push through it. It’s a pretty good job.
Read more at bloomberg.com…
Published on October 26, 2004 at 8:49 pm. Linking to this article? Thank you! The permanent address is http://www.todayiwrite.com/journal/quote-robert-b-parker.html
Writer's block, an owner's guide: Quote: Joni Mitchell
This sang to me from today’s LA Times [I've removed the link because it's expired - DJM]. Joni Mitchell on not having written since her reunion with the daughter she used to sing about: Mitchell sees no need to put herself on display for a public that only wants to hear the greatest hits over and over.
“Miles [Davis] was like that at the end. He wasn’t trying to be rude on stage when he would wait for an hour and a half to find someone who inspired him to play two notes. His golden age and his period of exploration was behind him. I just don’t want to do it anymore.” In the end, her personal contentment and her silence seem to be interlocked.
I’m not suggesting you should retire from writing, although goodness knows that is one thing you’re free to do when working seems too much like work. Accepting peace into your life might be better than years of depressing yourself. No; I’m suggesting, again, once again, one more time, that silence is not failure. Just as sleep is essential to wakefulness, so diversion and mulling can be helpful to productivity.
No, I’m not back, I’m still on the break I said I was taking yesterday, I guess I didn’t write this.
Published on September 5, 2004 at 1:31 pm. Linking to this article? Thank you! The permanent address is http://www.todayiwrite.com/journal/quote-joni-mitchell.htmlNext Page »