So I want to begin this essay with a bold claim. Most people who claim to have writer’s block do so because they haven’t actually tried to write.
I’ll explain. Most writers I know (or artists in general) sit down to make art when the muse hits them. When they’re inspired they play music, when they’re struck they paint, and when the muse is upon them they write and THIS is a terrible way to do anything that matters.
Imagine any other profession waiting until the moment was right to do their job. The steelworker, the accountant, and the shoemaker are all professions that require creativity, talent, and imagination but imagine getting an email from your accountant on April 14th letting you know that he was just really going through a serious numbers block right now.
The other professions don’t have blocks because they learned to do their jobs…like a job. As workmen. They wake up, they sit down to work, they eat lunch, they finish, and they live their lives. This is how the artist, the true artist, must also function if art is to be your career. By most accounts William Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet in two weeks. Nothing I ever write will be as good as Romeo and Juliet; that’s the gift of shakespeare he’s placed a lofty cap on art to take off the pressure. And Shakespeare was busy. He was an actor poet, playwright, husband, father and businessman. Emotional breakdowns waiting in the wings to distract him but he also had the queen mother expecting a play. If he didn’t deliver she would have been displeased and her displeasure meant poverty, ruin,, and possibly death. YO, do not have a queen elizabeth and probably cannot get one. It’s my personal opinion that accountability buddies, Nano-memo apps, and life coaches will only ever serve as a temporary motivator. You must learn to motivate yourself and the way to do it is simple. Set a time. Set a schedule and sit down to write.
Ok so this Term is stolen EXACTLY from steven presswood so credit where credit is due, but resistance is everything and ANYTHING that will try to keep you from sitting down to work that first day. Picture in your mind a demon, a demon who has lived with you your entire life, who knows your every habit, your every weakness, fear and vice, whose ONE and ONLY goal is stop you from creating. Why does he exist? Who knows. When you were 7 your teacher threw a cupcake at you and told you never to be a writer. You weren’t hugged enough. You were hugged too much. If I knew the universal cause of self destruction by the artist I’d have opened with it but trust me that Resistance, that dark doppelganger of yourself is reading this with you and HATES…that you know his name.
Here are some of the tricks that resistance will use to try to keep you from sitting down to the piano, keyboard, or potter’s wheel.
Email. Don’t you have an email to answer? Remember? 3 months ago a friend emailed asking you what was that vase your roommate had 8 years ago. It would be rude not to spend 3 or four hours on amazon locating it..and then buying everything else you need for your house. Never can have too much toilet paper and splenda can you? And maybe some cute organizers for the desk. Ones that will have a pen or a sticky note at the ready whenever you need it for the rest of your life oh my god it’s four in the morning.
Social Media: This is a terrible one for me. As I write this my facebook is open in a tab behind this screen blinking gently at me 10. Ten what? Ten notifications. Ten likes. Ten friend requests. Ten comments. Ten pictures of my high school friend’s baby. Ten replies to that post you made about Donald Trump. Ten replies to your reply about your reply to a reply to that post you made about rump. And after you’ve properly explained that the earth is round 140 characters at a time to some asshole on twitter you’re too tired, too mad, too distracted, too full of stimuli? to right.
Drugs. So in the interest of intellectual honesty the single most creative hard working individual I know is ALWAYS high. ALWAYS. I would trade my left nut for the drive and work ethic of this person. YOU are not this person. You are the ARMY of other humans in my life who smoke weed or drink and allow it to put you in slow motion. Who have bored me with the same dreams and ambitions for years. You want to know a secret? Honest to god true secret? I smoke pot once or twice a year MAX. Why? Cause I’m busy writing. I don’t have four hours to be sitting around with my mouth open. Don’t get me wrong pot is an AMAZING creative stimulus? for me now. If I’m ever stuck or jammed? Can’t come up with a sketch or idea a hit and a blank piece of paper and I’m cruising. But it’s because I use it like a christmas tree. Rarely. Take my biased apologetic humble advice. You are not the Beatles, you’re not, my friend cut it all out. You’ll thank me
And the final tool of resistance…DRAMA. This is a big one. This is Resistance’s nuclear bomb. You, brilliant future artist that you ar, are inches away from from the typewriter so he has no choice he asks you…are you really happy in your relationship? Does he really love you? He spies that friend having a bad day on facebook and what kind of person would you be if you didn’t call…and then go over there…and bake them cookies…and fistfight their boyfriend. I have watched friends and foes spend MONTHS on drama. There is an infinite well of it. And the more you indulge the more you find. If you have used the term “don’t have the spoons or self care” asked people on facebook to send you puppy pictures, or had a friend steal your phone and use it for tinder resistance is expertly manipulating you with drama. Cut it the fuck out.
The Blank page:
Ok you made it. You are in front of your computer and….you have no idea what to write. That’s ok. Don’t panic. Start writing. Seriously Just start. Here’s what you’ll write in order,
stream of consciousness: La la la I’m writing. My keyboard goes click click click
Get it out. You’ll get bored eventually but get it out on the page. Leave it there. It will make you laugh later. I have a post it note that contains my favorite blank page moment above my desk that says “Dip the balloon in icy cold water is the most beautiful sentence in the world”
I stand by it
Oof Here we go. Happens to the best of us. I have a file called the wah wah show. No matter what your level of luck, the eventfulness of your life or your outlook, you will now write an absolutely tragic autobiography or a sad song or moody painting. The good news is some of it will be worth keeping and you’ll get an excellent cry out of it.
Everything you write will be sort of an autobiography anyway. There will be a few good moments in there. Universal ideas precepts. A funny story or two Maybe a truth about yourself that will really excellently be illustrated by the blue faced aliens in the space opera that you write next but it had to happen here first.
Other smaller additions to the blank page are ideas for projects you’ll never do (I spent several hours planning a scathing atheist convention that’s never going to happen once when I couldn’t think of a good joke for God awful movies), shopping lists, bad poetry even if your intention wasn’t to write poetry, and porn. That last one hasn’t happened to me but it’s happened to quite a few friends. Save it? Get that 50 shades of grade money.
And now hopefully. After all that. You have an idea. Not a novel. Not a 7 book series but an idea. JK Rowling writes about how Harry walked into her mind fully formed. Not the books. Not the whole story. Harry. At this point (or honestly maybe even before) that idea has percolated. Follow it.
For me it’s usually just a line or two. For this essay it was just the list of things you’ll write before you write the first line. Everything else just fell in. LET it fall in. Don’t check spelling or grammar. Don’t think of the perfect phrase or idea or moment just vomit words onto your page editing is for tomorrow (or in my case someone else) but get the art that is and only can be yours OUT of your head. Do it until you literally cannot anymore. Don’t stop to eat or sleep if the flow is going this first time. Give yourself the runner’s high and to hell with the consequences. Tomorrow you’ll be exhausted. Wounded. Sore, and dry of art and emotion. That’s when you can check your spelling…and start all over again