Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What is writer's block?

I've told people that I never get writer's block. I always seem to be able to write *something,* if not something interesting or good or important. This is what blogs are for, writing *something.* And now that I am in revision mode with novel 2, getting *something* done is even easier. All that is required is staring at the printed (not blank!) page and making some sort of change. Or not! Because maybe I'll just keep what's already there, and keeping counts as revision! I am thinking! I am deciding! This is real work!

However. I am beginning to get a hint of what classic, cigarettes-bathrobe-wild-haired-baggy-eyed-cocaine-haunted-hotel-ax-murder-type writer's block is like. I have been trying to come up with "ideas" for some new short stories, which I hope to start on when this next round of revision is over. I have done about three pages on two different stories, and finished a full draft of another. But all of them just seem hollow. That's the best word I can use to describe them. They are words wrapped around a nonexistent core. I don't enjoy reading them or thinking about them. They feel like imitations of stories.

Well, Robert Olen Butler would say that having "ideas" for stories is my first problem. It means I'm coming at the problem intellectually rather than "from where I dream." And I suspect that is an issue. I'm writing about things I don't really care about. That is, I'm working from "concepts" that I think are "interesting" rather than from emotions that I don't fully understand (or accept). Even though some of my more successful stories have always seemed to me rather aloof, even arch, I'm starting to realize that there's some strangled cry of personal anguish within them. You can't fake that shit. You can't borrow someone else's personal anguish or conjure it up out of abstractions. In other words, at some point, you have to--metaphorically!--open a vein. Find an untapped agony mine, and then, maybe, make it funny.

The holiday season will probably help with this.

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