Monday, July 11, 2011

Not Writing

Since I'm not writing, let's talk about not writing.

I've touched on the subject before, but one of the interesting things about not writing is that as a writer you can pretty much talk about not writing all day.  As in, "Why am I not writing," and, "I need to be writing," and, "I'll feel better as soon as I start writing," and finally, "fuck it."

As a young writer I heard about writer's block and naturally interpreted every hesitation to write as some kind of potential problem that would stop me forever from being a writer.  If I didn't write for as long as a month, I would be certain the spark had died in me ... since hundreds of TV and movie examples of writers seemed to have those writers getting freaked out and frustrated after what appeared to be onscreen for a very short time.  Even now, it is a constant cliche to open a movie or a book with a writer (or some other compositional artist) who can't write.  Lo and behold, as the story goes on, a new spark infects the writer's life and he or she begins writing like the possessed caricature the actual writer of the story probably wants to be.

It is certainly easier to write about someone who is able to write with fabulous ease, than to do so.  The fantasy to write like that is, among writers, so pervasive that it's hard to think of a story about a writer who doesn't at some point become gifted with the genius of continuous wordspitting.  In fact, why write about a writer if you're not going to write about the natural internal struggle that a writer experiences, AND it's cure?

For real life actual writers, the quest for this wonderful fantasy spark encourages them to do most anything.  Another standard trope is the writer who quits work, leaves family, leaps into the wilderness and sets up a NON-electric writing implement in a rustic old cabin so they CANNOT be disturbed.  This always amuses me.  The cliche usually continues so that the clock is ticking, the birds are pecking at the window, the wind is blowing through windchimes conveniently located near the front door and so on.  I wonder why the writer doesn't simply bury themselves in a bank vault somewhere, or build an impenetrable bomb/writing shelter in their back yard.

I can't relate, since I've long since gotten used to writing amidst fifty or sixty people either in the process of chattering on phones and calling out to one another, or in restaurants with waitresses periodically serving me coffee and cleaning up.  I only need quiet when I'm editing, which means I'm fixing problems ... and the bedroom with the door closed seems to be sufficient for that.

The most important advice I can give anyone - the advice I forced myself to take - is that if you don't feel like writing, don't write.  Seriously.  It is going to be shit on the page anyway.  You're wasting your time, you're undermining your confidence in your own writing and chances are you'd rather be out bullriding or para-sailing anyway.  Go do that.  Do enough of that and you'll start to feel a desire to write about it.  Problem solved.

I've always said that writing is an input/output equation.  If you are not putting out material, you're dry and you need more input.  When you have enough input, you'll swell from everything you're holding inside and it will pour onto the page.  It doesn't take a spark.  You're just short on experiencing life.

Of course, if you rush out and experience life, and you still don't feel like writing, I suppose that must be telling you something.  Nyet?


  1. What's your feeling on simply putting a few words down to see if more comes out? Maybe not forcing yourself to write, but more seeing where it goes? I've been thinking I should just open a word doc and punch a few keys each day to see if I can get it flowing again. (It's been a few years since I did 'serious' writing.)

  2. I'm all for it, Oddbit. If you feel an itch to write, scratch away. It's only that a lot of people get guilty about not writing, and guilt is a hard place from which to be creative.