A Humble Little Post About how to Kiss Your Writer’s Block Goodbye
(And Maybe Punch it in the Crotch on the way out)
I’ll always remember it. Late in the spring of ’82 when I was young and the world was spread before me like something that spreads before you when you’re young.
So I walked into the O.R. and said, “Scalpel.” The lady (I think it was probably a nurse, but who can say when everyone’s wearing a mask – it could have been some desperado in a pink outfit) handed me a scalpel. “I’m making the first incision,” I said. Then I started with the bone saw. “Oooh, look,” was my next comment. “It’s his brain.”
I poked it, and laughed HI-lariously when the fellow kicked a nearby bedpan. Another poke and he shouted “Fruity tooty love your booty!”
At this point several armed officers escorted me out of the room. But in spite of the fact that I was in prison for a while (turns out there are rules about doing brain surgery when you are not, in fact, a doctor of any kind), I’ll always have those great memories. The guy I operated on probably won’t, but that’s a risk I was willing to take.
“Wait, wait, WAIT! What the heck does this have to do with being a writer and avoiding writer’s block?” I hear you say.
To which I answer: everything, suckah.
Here’s the big secret about writer’s block: writer’s block usually doesn’t mean a writer has nothing in him or her to write; rather it usually means they do have something to write, but there’s some kind of internal crap filter that keeps them from writing it. As though there’s a part of most writers that insists that every single sentence be an appropriate calling card for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Or at least a Hugo or something.
But that’s just dumb. Not everything you write will be perfect. And it’s not supposed to be perfect. That’s what God invented re-writes for.*
So wait, now you agree I may have a point, but still aren’t getting the whole brain surgery connection. Well, it’s simple, my fine young friend.** The point of the brain surgery example is to illustrate a simple fact about writing: unless you are in charge of correspondence between hostile states, it is very likely that no matter how bad a writer you are, no one will die.
Person who does brain surgery without adequate preparation = bad (and probably dead brain surgery patient). Person who engages in writing without adequate preparation = fine-and-dandy-because-how-the-heck-else-are-you-going-to-get-good-at-it? So the stakes are low and you can write without worrying about killing someone. Takes a load off, don’t it?
And that leads to this question: You want to know how to avoid writer’s block? Answer: Just WRITE. Accept the fact some of what you write will not be fit for wiping Charley Manson’s behind. When you accept that, you can also accept that you’ll be able to go back and fix it later (thus making what you write fit for wiping the hinies of really important folks like the President or Oprah or other people who run the world).
And when you start to write with this attitude, an odd thing happens: you start to get good. You start to get fast. You start to be a writer who knows you can sit down at a moment’s notice and bang out something that resembles a good piece of work.
Example: I recently optioned a screenplay, and was asked to do some rewrites on it. I netted several tens of THOUSANDS of dollars. Total time to write the script: three days. Total time to do the rewrites: two days.
That’s a good earnings ratio.
Or how about this: I wrote a book called Billy: Messenger of Powers (which, BTW, you can get at smashwords.com or at Amazon.com). The book is pretty good: it’s currently the Highest-Rated book out of many thousands at smashwords.com, and has gotten great reviews from dozens of folks. All this to say (aside from being a really subtle way of pimping one of my books) is that the book does not stink. It is even possible to call it “good.”
It is over 180,000 words. That’s well over 400 pages in paperback format.
I wrote it – including rewrites – in a month. Because I just let myself write, and let myself enjoy it.
Writing is NOT brain surgery. It is NOT nuclear weapons testing. It is WRITING. It is something that anyone and everyone can do. And along with that fact, it is also something that anyone and everyone WILL get good at.
If they practice.
If they recognize “writer’s block” for what it really is: they’re own insecurity getting in the way of a good first draft.
If they, in a word… write.
So what are you sitting around reading this for? Go write something!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michaelbrent Collings is a lawyer, screenwriter, black-belt martial artist, father, husband, and has a killer backhand on the badminton court. He is, in a word (wait, that’s several words!), a guy going through some serious personality issues.
In addition to Billy: Messenger of Powers, Michaelbrent has also written the amazon.com suspense-thriller RUN and the sci-fi epic Celestia. He’s also written screenplays, several fairy tales, a couple of nonfiction books, and dozens of articles on a variety of subjects. He even has a blog at http://whoisbillyjones.com/mylittlethoughts/ that lets you delve into the inner creakings of a warped mind.
* Unless you don’t believe in God, in which case I guess you’re just going to burn in Hell, where you will have writer’s block forever and also will probably have to sit next to me while I smack my chewing gum very loudly.
**You may in fact be a cruddy old coot, but since we’ve never met I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt. Just like you’re going to imagine me with a thick head of hair.