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The Unmentionable

October 9, 2008

I know, I know.  Writers hate having it and hate talking about having it.  There’s nothing worse a writer will face in the course of his/her career.  I’d wager that, as bad as rejections are, most if not all writers would prefer a thousand personal, mean-spirited rejections than it.  What is it?  *Cue ominous music*

Writer’s block.

There are times when we can’t write or type fast enough to keep up with the gold flowing from our brain to our fingers.  These are the good days.  These are the days for which we live.  Then there are the other days.  The days when our muse refuses to answer his door.  The days where it feels like we couldn’t even write a shopping list if someone spotted us milk, bread and eggs.  I have these days (just look to the right and notice the two blank days on my calendar) so I know how awful they can be.

More often than not, I think, these are the days when we have forgotten a cardinal rule of writing.  It should be fun.  If it’s not fun then why torture ourselves trying to win the lottery of publication?  Then the circle completes and we have writer’s block because it’s not fun and it’s not fun because we have writer’s block and we have writer’s block because it’s not fun and … are we sensing a pattern here?

So.  We’ve diagnosed the problem.  Now, how do we make it fun?

We have to go back to childhood.  Think about it.  A young child (and, yes, we all were young at one point) does stuff for one reason and one reason only:  fun.  If it’s not fun you either make it fun or you do something else.  Ask any writer if “doing something else” is really an option and you’ll almost certainly get a resounding “Hell no!  I can’t not write.  I’m nothing without writing.”

Okay, so the only option, then, is to make it fun.  How do we do this?  Well, first we should heed the advice given to a young Stephen King (forgive me, I’m still listening to “On Writing” so I have King on the brain and the advice is apt anyway) by a newspaper editor, the editor’s name escapes me at the moment, after he handed in his first column.  The editor advised young Mr. King to “write with the door closed.  Rewrite with the door open.”

Suitable profundity, eh?  So what’s that mean for us starving artist types?  It means to always remember that the first draft is the rough draft.  It should only be for our eyes.  It’s our playground.  We are master of that domain.  Yeah, yeah, enough cliches.  What I’m saying is that we can do anything we want.  We don’t need to worry about what other people think about the story until we tackle the chore of rewriting.

If you are stuck while writing do something drastic.  Kill a character and see what happens.  Make an incompatable character fall madly in love with your hero, see what they do.  Hell, make your heroine (or is hero apropos for male and female leads nowadays?) quit her job at the high-falootin’ law firm and begin a new career as a rodeo clown.  Do something that throws your perception of the work on it’s head.

It’s possible that doing something like this will give you a cool new direction to take your story.  It’s possible that you’ll delete every ridiculous word.  Either way, you’ll be writing.  That’s not supposed to happen during a bout of writer’s block.  What’s more, it’ll probably be damn fun to boot.  It should remind you that the act of creation is fun.  The ultimate goal is to fool your mind into thinking of writer’s block not as the Great Wall of China but as recess spent on your personal playground.  Like a kid.  Kids know how to have fun.  We writers cannot afford to lose our inner children.  We need them.

If you’ll excuse me, my inner child and I have a date with a keyboard.

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