For you, the dress code is casual.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

On writer's block and tearing down the wall

This is a sticker I’ve bought for my scooter. It really says it all.

This blogging thing, it’s getting out of control. With more than one posting a day, I seldom get the 15-20 comments I’d like to get. I wonder why it is. I think comments should be the blog reader’s form of rent.

But I know I surf and don’t comment from time to time, so I’d be a hypocrite to really suggest that.

Writing, for me, is an obsession right now. Those who’ve been along for the ride happen to know that I've recently overcome five heartbreaking years with writer’s block.

GayBoy scoffed at me when I likened writer’s block to emotional impotence. I was pretty pissed off at that reaction (take note, GayBoy). You think not getting it up one night or one week is somehow more emotionally damaging than not being able to create?

If you’ve never experienced a creative block, you have no idea. If you’ve never experienced it for a month, you can’t fucking imagine five years of it. Yes, I occasionally wrote something I was proud of, but mostly, I was angry, frustrated, and disappointed. Every day. For five years. Five plus years of never knowing why what was on the page didn’t match what was in my head. Five years of trying to figure out how I went from A to D without any fucking substance in between.

My friends and family probably thought my mother's death was all that was eating me, but there are times when I think the writer's block hurt me far more than any death ever did. If you're a writer and you can't write, you're nothing. Nothing. You're taking up fucking space, and you know it.

Writer’s block is killer. I clearly have no problem sitting down and writing, I have no problem with losing myself in my head for hours on end. Never have. So why the writer’s block? I’ll never understand it, myself. But I know how I climbed the fuck out of the morass.

And now, I’m obsessed with writing, which is awesome, but now I don’t know where to go with it. Now I have to put my money where my mouth is, get a job, get laid, get happy. And it’s scary as fuck. Fear is my nemesis.

(Ed. Note: I don’t do fiction. I don’t do poetry. I won’t write the next great Canadian novel. Nor will my screenplay ever be playing at a theatre near you. I like the literary one-night stand. I like to sit down, pound something out, and know I never have to revisit it. I have a fear of commitment. It shows.)

And though I don’t know where I’m going, I know what I want to do. Soon, I’ll hopefully get there. I was recently asked by one of my “readers” to help him out with a bit of his own writer’s block. I was lying in bed thinking about it this morning and realized that most of the techniques I used to break down that wall took effect last fall.

So, my writer’s block began coming apart in the autumn, when I put all of these steps into motion. For the years previous, I was in a swirl of discontent and never really knew where to go. When I began realizing the most important thing for writer’s block was work ethic, I decided to put measures into place that would record things that interested me, even if the ability to write it didn’t materialize. I’d keep piles of these notes on hand for when I’d decided to write. A few of those tricks include:

When I had money, I bought a laptop, so I could work anywhere inspiration hit me. Now that my ethic and ability is back, it never leaves my desk, but for a while, I’d write in any environment I could. I would time myself. I’d decide in advance I’d write for a minimum of 45 minutes. It would be crap, but it’d be something.

In my coffee table, I still have a box I call my “idea box.” Actually, it says “idea box” on it. I wanted to call it “pandora’s box” but I thought I’d get all apocalyptic if I got creative about naming it. The box is a recipe box stuffed with pens and recipe cards, so I never have to rummage around to jot somethign down. Any time I’m watching anything on television that strikes me as an interesting idea, whether it’s a movie I like or a ludicrous report on the Daily Show, I write the idea down and why it interests me. I do not put the card back in the box. It goes in a pile on my desk, and in moments when I have no inspiration, I resort to The Pile.

I have also, when a good line hits me out of the blue, written lines on post-it notes and stuck them up around the house, in places where they’ll visually hit me. The trick is taking them down so people don’t think you’re a moron when they visit.

The tried and true thing, too, is always having a notebook on you. I go through phases where I forget the book. And then you find a napkin, a receipt, whatever it takes. Always, always write down the thoughts that make you smile. Write descriptions of the people who are pissing you off on a bus. A reaction to a delicious meal. Anything that strikes you. You’re a writer. You know what being struck feels like. If you don’t, you’re maybe not a writer.

These notes can unleash an entire world of writing. One, for instance, that I have in a pile here is “I like the trappings, but not the trap.” If I call it back to mind, this is for a piece I want to write about my relationship with money and my loathing of employment. And one day, I will. Until then, the mussied old scrap of paper will reside in its rightful place, in my stack of ideas.

There are times you’ll see I’ve written in all lowercase letters. That’s when I feel like I must write but I can’t wrap my head around the words or what it is I hope to communicate. By consciously choosing to forego the grammatical rules like capitalization, I’m letting myself stand outside the perimeter of what my writing normally is. It frees me a little, and you’ll almost always find that those posts tend to be more honest, more personal, and a slightly different style than my usual work.

My best writing occurs in the morning and at night, but that probably has to do with being a working stiff.

I try to change up my music from time to time with writing. Writing to Nick Cave will produce drastically different results, with its dark imagery, than writing to something fun with wacky imagery like Dada. Some of the best writing I’ve ever done has been to stuff I wouldn’t normally listen to, like Loreena McKennit or some old jazz that ain’t my style.

These days, writing a thousand or more words a day doesn’t take any effort. An hour, and I’m done. Something mammoth like my Elvis story would take 2 hours, but still. Fuck, I longed for this for years. I’m just enjoying the ride.