Thursday, September 6, 2007


Writer's block. What is it. How do you fight it?

[Cue Maury Povich sound effects]

Earlier this evening I sat down to do some work on a story I've been working on. When I started I felt a little lost. Sort of a case of the blahs, wondering if I could really shape these words into something interesting, or even get myself jazzed enough to really try. As it turns out, I did make progress, and then started thinking about a few things that seem to help.

1. Awareness/awakeness. If you're just jotting ideas down, testing out titles, or if you've got a few phrases that make up a wacky short poem, then okay, 1:15AM just before you collapse is as good a time as any. But for in-depth stuff like fiction or creative nonfiction, you have to have your wits about you. That's because things can change and you might have a better idea in two minutes, so you have to be ready for it.

2. Tension. Not a lot. Not enough to give you a headache. But being too relaxed can make you apathetic.

1 and 2 make 3. Sobriety. This is something I've noticed. It's hard to get worked up in your writing if you've been drinking. Even one beer or glass of wine can make you want to chill too much. Haven't smoked any marriage-a-wanna lately, but I would guess smoking a joint has much the same effect.

4. Concentration. Sometimes you have to make up your mind not to be distracted. You can make it easier on yourself. In an interview, I read Kelly Link saying that she does a lot of writing in coffee shops so that she doesn't get distracted by blogs and articles. That seems like a good example to follow. (Needless to say, if said coffee shop offers wi-fi, don't take it.)

5. Low expectations. Or maybe no expectations. I've found that if I sit down and say "This is gonna be so cool" or "I've got something to say"*, that's a form of self-sabotage. Better to say, "I'll let some words come out, and see where we go from there." And sometimes it does turn out to be kind of cool.

I'll stipulate that so far, my writing has only managed to entertain my parents and a few friends. But this is just a series of personal observations anyway. If anyone has others they want to share, feel free.

On a related note, if any erotica writers drop by, I'm curious. When you write a really hot scene, do you masturbate before, after, or sometime in the middle?

*If your "I've got something to say" is followed by "I killed your baby today", that's a different situation.


susan said...

Ah, many and diverse are the paths to the creative Event.. and in answer to your question about myspace url - well, that's a stillborn baby.

Ben said...

Sorry to hear about the myspace. But I do love the picture you chose for your Blogger profile. Very grand and British. Have you started broadening your a's again?