Thursday, November 23, 2006
Writer's block, or "Who gives a [censored]?"
Hands up all those who know what "writer's block" is. There you go, it's a universal phenomenon, whether you are writing your autobiography or a report for you boss. It starts with a blank sheet of paper, or in these days, a blank computer screen. The hardest word to write in the entire novel/report/autobiography is the first one. It's like putting the first footprint in virigin snow.
So, if you are like me, you take a really deep breath....and go and make a cup of coffee. Then you come back, determined to start, but first, you will just check your emails. That done, you really ARE going to start, but first, it might be a good idea to sharpen your pencils. That done, it's all systems go, but first, it might be a good idea to check your in-tray. OK, no more delays, this is it, we are STARTING. But first, didn't I promise to phone old so-and-so? Better do that, after all one shouldn't neglect one's social obligations. And so it goes, on and on and on. Meanwhile, the page stays inviolate. or unviolated, depending on the strength of your metaphors.
What's your problem? All you have to do is to press the first key to produce the first letter of the first word of your magnum opus. What's stopping you?
I will tell you what is stopping you. You are a victim of - and nobody has told you this - a syndrome known as "the best is the enemy of the good". You are so desperate to write a wonderful novel, or whatever, that you would rather write nothing than write something that is less than wonderful. So you sharpen your pencils for the nth time.
But listen, there IS a way out. You have to get up one morning, and, depending on your vocabulary and who is listening at the time, you have to say, loudly and aggressively: "[Censor] you, [Censor] everybody, [Censor] the whole [censored] world, I am going to write a really [censored] BAD BOOK, and I don't give a monkey's [censored] what anyone thinks."
And you sit down, gloriously defiant, and you start to write a bad book. Which, after all, is better than no book at all.
And it works. Believe me, it works. You might have to go back later and revise the first chapters, but you have overcome writer's block, you have made the first footprints in the virgin snow, and, as a bonus, you have an amazing collection of sharpened pencils.