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Blogenning Theme of the Week: Writer’s Block

Part of the fun of the Blogenning is that once a week someone chooses a topic for you. Some weeks it’s incredibly easy, some weeks you have nothing to say about that subject and just have to roll with it. This week we’re talking about writer’s block. I’ll let you decide where this one falls.

I’ve got nothing…

OK. Someone had to get that joke out of the way. I wouldn’t want Tom or Ian to have to soil their blogs with it.

This post actually started, in my head at least, with a comment I left on Dave’s originating post on the matter. Writer’s block is entirely about quantity. The whole concept of it is that you have nothing to write about. People then feed in to this by adding the unnecessary barrier of “I have nothing good to write about.” That’s just adding fuel to the fire.

Let’s go back to the concept of the Gap which I posted about a while ago. The gap is talking about this space between starting to create and being able to create things that we actually think are good enough to share with the world. You have to get from point A to point B somehow. How do you do that? You create a lot of utter crap and then, eventually, you get that all out of your system, learn from you mistakes, and start to make better and better things.

So people who feed their writer’s block by adding the unnecessary constraint of creating something of quality are just screwing themselves. Creative people create utter shit. Not everything can be the next great american novel, or top 40 hit (well, back when that used to mean something about quality), or Michelangelo sculpture. Most of what is created is utter crap and you just have to get it out and then forget about it. You have to figure out what went wrong, and then try not to let that happen again.

So if you’re frustrated at you inability to create, first consider if you’ve come to expect yourself to create something good. If you have, ignore that, and just try to create something.

I think Wil Wheaton put it best:

Don’t be afraid to suck. It is easier to fix a broken scene than it is to fill up a blank page.

So whenever I get stuck in creating, I just goof around with it until I get going again. Missing a chord in the middle of a progression? Play whatever the hell you want until you stumble upon something that interests you. Stuck in the middle of a scene? Kill one of the characters unexpectedly. Or have something explode. Or write a diatribe on squash as a silent killer. It doesn’t matter what you create, just create something. Anything. Then, later, once you’ve gotten past the hard part, go back and let your taste tell you what to do with it. If it’s terrible, try again. It may not be as bad as you think it is. It may actually be brilliant once you tweak it a bit. You’ll never know until you get it out of your head and in to the real world.

How did I finally figure this out? I did National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This is an event built to drill this in to you. The Boston region is especially full of brilliant and fun people who are trying to complete this crazy challenge. The veterans have learned to embrace the creative flow and just keep pushing forward. People joke openly about the crap they’ve just written, some wearing their terrible prose as a badge of honor and courage under creative fire, and the rest of us think it’s awesome. The creative energy in this event is unparalleled. You get to be with other writers going through the same thing you are. Sine the common writer is a solitary creature by nature, this sort of thing is an amazing boon.

About the second week of NaNoWriMo you hit a wall of creativity. You’re fairly well convinced everything you’ve written is terrible and that everything will continue to be terrible. You’re a hack at best. You don’t want to think about what you might be at worst. You start to wonder if there’s some sort of literary prison where they will sentence you to a life of reading nothing but Any Rand and the Twilight Saga as punishment for the never-before-conceived-of befouling of the English language you’ve managed. It’s hard to go on. This is when all of the other WriMos will guilt you in to continuing. In fact, the very blogenning this post was influenced by was designed to harness that element of harassment by friends as motivation to write. Then, suddenly, with a little “help” from your “friends”, you’ve gotten past the week two slump! Things are starting to come together, and you can ride the wave of awesome to the finish line.

Throughout NaNoWriMo you’ll receive pep talks from your local Municipal Liasons, as well as the core staff who run the event at The Office Of Letter and Lights (OLL). The guys and gals at the OLL have even gone out to published authors and asked them to write pep talks for you. A lot of the pep talks amount to, “I know this whole first draft thing can suck, but just stick it out and wait until you’re done. It will be amazing then.” Even people who we consider to have succeeded beyond our wildest dreams had to go through this.

So the next time you’re up against a wall, stop beating yourself up and just start doing things. Create utter shit if you must. Just create.

If you stop, I have a pack of rabid WriMos at my disposal, and I can figure out where you live.

– B


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