There is no such thing as writer’s block for writers whose standards are low enough.
“Beautiful” by Eminem is a classic buried at the end of an otherwise forgettable CD. It begins by examining why he writes and contemplating what he’ll do after he leaves rap, with the maturity that is his trademark. Definitely worth a listen. So, here it is.
Next, I offer “Losing It” by Rush. Note their passion and precision. Without passion, don’t write. They also mention moving the world. If you can’t do that, don’t write.
Here’s Rush’s second verse:
The writer stare with glassy eyes
Defies the empty page
His beard is white, his face is lined
And streaked with tears of rage
Thirty years ago, how the words would flow
With passion and precision
But now his mind is dark and dulled
By sickness and indecision
And he stares out the kitchen door
Where the sun will rise no more…
Bloody self-importance. That’s why I call “bullshit” on writer’s block. What authors do is tremendous, but it’s not magic.
When the dancer in Rush’s first verse isn’t physically able to dance anymore, she cries because, apparently, dancing is all she ever could or will do that matters. Um, no. Just because you’ll never dance again, or do anything else as well as you used to dance, doesn’t mean you get to wallow in self-pity. Well, not forever.
Joseph Heller’s last novel was about a novelist who was writing a new novel simply because, if we stop writing our novels, we lack the imagination to know what the hell else to do with our time. Is that honest? Hell yeah. Is it reason enough to write? Nope.
Anne Tyler described how, whenever she gets an idea, she writes it on an index card and puts it in the box. When writing a book, she opens her box and starts using up her cards. She used to dream of, one day, running out of cards. With an empty box, she wouldn’t have to write anymore. But fortunately for all of us, she’s learned that she’ll never run out of cards. She’s always adding them faster than she can use them up.
Whenever I finish writing a book, my box is always empty.
A big part of being a writer is having the discretion to know what belongs in the box. “Using” a card might not mean writing about that idea. It might mean looking at it and realizing it belongs in the circular file.
When you encounter novelists lyricists etc. who strike you as “uneven,” they don’t know what to leave out of the box.
Authors who, while writing a book, leave things in their box for the sole purpose of writing sequels need to be taken out and shot.
I’ve been saying for quite a while that The Last Titan is my last novel. And now the book is written. My box is empty. I am happy. My beard is white, but my face isn’t lined and streaked with tears of rage.
Y’all might remember the last time I retired from writing novels. Ten years later, I came out of retirement and wrote my best novels, the ones that define my career. Conundrum, Enigma, Sandlot, and now The Last Titan. It wouldn’t matter a bit if all the novels I wrote before them just fucked off.
I suppose living might put some more stuff back in my box, eventually. But I know moaning about muses and writer’s block won’t do it. Waiting for the fairy dust doesn’t get the writing done, and it also turns your life into shit, which is why it’s dangerous. It’s also why Eminem advises you not to sit back and wallow in your own sorrow. There really are better things to do.
There is no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California that cannot write.
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