Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Writer's Block

My closest advisor tells me that people read blogs to find out how to write. They don't care about my experiences in the publishing business. Actually, it would do them a lot of GOOD to know about the publishing business, especially if they want to make money as a writer. But for this column, anyway, I'll chat about one of the biggest topics among people who think they can write.
Let me say, first of all, that there is a big difference between people who "want to be a writer" and people who want to write. People who want to write, write. People who want to be writers expect inspiration to strike and all of a sudden they'll be a writer.
Doesn't work that way. Writers write, and if they produce anything significant they write almost every day. Nothing stops them.
The would-be writer finds all sorts of excuses for postponing or avoiding writing. When I hear somebody talk about writer's block, I know they're looking for an excuse not to write. Here's how I explain it: If you get on a bus to go somewhere and the driver stops at a red light, you don't mind. But when the light turns green, and he still doesn't move, you wonder why. Then if it goes through another cycle, red light, green light, you or some other passenger might ask the driver: "What's the matter? Why aren't we moving?"
Suppose the driver answers, "I'm sorry. I've got driver's block. I have to wait until it's over." Are you sympathetic? Do you assure him that if he waits long enough the driver's block will go away? Do you give him tips on overcoming driver's block? No, you say, "Get your foot on the accelerator and move the damn bus."
And that's the same as writer's block.
Now there will be days when you find it hard to get started writing. Hemingway said he tried to leave off every day at a point in his writing where he knew what was going to happen next, so he could get a nice start the next day. But what you don't do if you find it hard to get started is get up and see what's in the refrigerator or go see if the mail has come yet or check your stocks on the Internet. And you don't tell yourself, "Oh, I have writer's block. I can't write."
No. You sit there and wait. Pretty soon you'll get bored enough to write something to please yourself.
Or you won't. If you don't, maybe you ought to ask yourself seriously if you're cut out to be a writer. Because writing is work. Don't think it isn't. And if you're not ready to drive the bus, maybe you should take the LSATs or try to make a living selling second-hand goods on eBay.
Not everybody is cut out to be a writer. The life isn't all that great anyway, unless you're lucky enough to write a best-seller. Or unless you like to write. Just wanting to be a writer isn't enough. Think about it.

No comments:

Post a Comment