Ever sat staring into a blank screen for…an hour, an afternoon, Three Whole Days? Yes, me, too. I called it Writer’s Block. I ate a whole chocolate cake. I even cleaned the bathroom–twice! That blank screen remained an expanse of white with an infernally blinking cursor, silently accusing me of being lax, lazy, uninspired, and–oh, well, you know the rest. Nothing, not one word, went into that story.
All of us know the moment when our invisible friends stop speaking to us. Or the “muse” leaves and goes fishing. And the plot twist that was brilliant at three in the morning is trite, silly, or just doesn’t work when we sit down to dress the idea with sparkling prose.
We’ve come to expect, maybe anticipate, the moment when the well of creativity suddenly goes dry. I took it for granted that those days were just part of the craft. Everyone has them. I felt pretty comfortable with the idea, knowing that sooner or later, the ideas would burble up again, the heroine would stop sulking and explain why she burned the hero’s tuxedo shirt in the fireplace, and the villain could finally come from behind his/her kindly false face.
Then I went to a Writer’s Conference. BTW, if you treasure and/or need your little fantasies about writing, never, ever go to a conference with a bunch of writers. All your ideas about the world of writers, how mysterious, aloof, dignified, and other-worldly they are will vanish like a bucket of cold Margaritas. Writers are rowdy (yes, they are), warm, chatty, and full of ideas about how to do it better, (no, don’t ask what “it” is; absolutely, don’t go there) which they will share at the drop of a rejection letter. This I discovered when I went to a conference, and sitting at the feet of HERSELF, hoping to learn the secrets of writing thirteen best sellers every year, looking cool and put together while doing it, and where in the world to find those fabulous shoes she always wears, I learned something I didn’t even know I wanted to know.
Someone in the audience–thankfully not me–asked, in the proper tone of awe and respect–”What do you do about writer’s block?” With a small smile, and a pitying shake of her short, red hair, HERSELF replied, “Did you ever hear of a secretary having secretarial block? Or a lawyer having lawyer block? Or a brick layer having brick layer block?” She chuckled. “No, you haven’t. And do you know why? Because secretary block, and lawyer block and brick layer block DO NOT EXIST. And neither does writer’s block. You write because that’s your job; it’s what you do. Some days you’ll do it really well. Some days you’ll just get through a scene or a conversation. And some days, you’ll put one word after another, plodding and pushing, till you fill the page with something that resembles writing. But you’ll do it, one page after another, until you get that story told. Because it’s your job and nobody can do it for you.”
Oh, angst! Oh, lost illusions! No such thing as writer’s block? Good golly, whatever will I use as an excuse for eating a whole chocolate cake now? How can I explain that my brilliant muse is on vacation again? What will I say when that nagging cursor winks intolerantly at me from a clean, blank screen?
I guess I’ll tell myself the same thing a whole flock of supportive but no-nonsense writers told me after that first conference. It’s easy to remember. BICHOK–or roughly translated–Backside in Chair, Hands on Keyboard!
Keep tap, tap, tapping, everyone.