Friday, September 14, 2007

Everybody Poops...Eventually

"Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead."
- Gene Fowler

My mom used to always ask me if I was “regular”.

This is probably far more information than you’d care to know about me but it has to do with this whole thing people call “writer’s block”. Everybody knows to eat your fiber and bran and all that and that the signs of a healthy person can be seen in…well, in their poop. If you poop regular, you’re good. If not, usually something is…backed up.

What does your poop have to do with writer’s block?

Nothing. I just wanted to have a blog about poop.

Kidding. A little.

In contrast to my belief that constipation can be a real serious problem, I don’t believe in writer’s block. Sometimes you can get stuck on some story idea or it can be harder to write than other days. Honestly, every day is a hard day to write. We’re constantly fighting the good fight of producing pages. Always. It makes us feel like Sisyphus, pushing the rock up the hill, watching it roll down, going back to get it…repeat…Most new writers have this ideal that writers only write when they get inspired, when the muse hits them like lightning (and the music swells just like in Shakespeare in Love and you write and write as if the gods were whispering in your ear and your pen burns the page its going so fast…).

This does not happen with most writers.

And the other writers that do experience that thrill of bliss…well, they aren’t much fun at parties.

Everyone who writes knows that writing is a pain in the ass. But having written…that’s glorious…its so nice to have something that’s been revised and polished and starting to resemble the first impulses you had long, long ago.

Someone once asked me awhile ago, “what do you do about writer’s block?” I told them, “I write.”

I know. It’s flippant. But it’s true.

I went on to explain that I write something—anything—down. Just to prove I can put a word on the page. I free write for a few minutes. That free writing can be thinking about the grocery list, the to do list at work, the annoying cube mate, my favorite beer, why I like coffee, or why I think Spielberg should cast me as Indiana Jones’ son in the next movie. Or maybe you can just write lists…a list of your favorite colors, favorite movies, or people or things that you hate…There are also plenty of writing exercises to be found in plenty of books to help you, as well. Whatever. The point is not quality, it’s to get the pen moving, or the hands typing. It’s to write. There’s always something to write about. No matter how trivial or stupid. Because once you start doing it, you realize that not all writing has to be brilliant. That’s probably why you’re stuck.

Because really there is no block. There’s just you and you’re in your own way.

To digress again…Remember in The Matrix when Neo goes to visit the Oracle and that little creepy bald kid is in the waiting room bending a spoon? He hands it to Neo and says, “There is no spoon.” Get it? There is no block, only the one you put on yourself. Once you realize that you don’t have to write a perfect first draft you’ve given yourself permission to suck. And that’s what you need. Permission will free you.

Once you get something down you can always rewrite. And like I’ve said before, rewriting is the promise of perfection (though you have to accept you never quite get there). The first draft always sucks. So let it suck.

You don’t sit down on the crapper with the pressure of “This must be the most glorious poop ever!” You’ll never be regular that way and you’ll always be disappointed.

There is no block. Say it. It feels good.

“There is no block.”

Now, procrastination…that’s another thing…for tomorrow.

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