Writer’s Block

Writer’s Block

Before I had insomnia, I was very unsympathetic toward those who did. “Shit,” I’d say, “just get out of bed and enjoy the extra time awake to do something!” Then fate and age had revenge on me, and I’ve changed my tune.

So what I say about writer’s block should be taken with a grain (or pound) of salt, because it’s not a problem from which I’ve really suffered. So my opinion may not be worth this digital paper it’s written on. (I’m honing my use of clichés.)

This is not to suggest I’m a perpetual fountain of inspiration. I have very bad days where everything I scribble seems appalling bad—and too often really is, and ends up being discarded. But I always find reassurance in knowing that is better than staring, paralyzed, at a blank page. No one else need ever know how bad it was.

The problem is one’s critical faculties, which may seem paradoxical, because it is what is needed for worthwhile writing. However, you have to separate the generational act from the critical one. If you immediately try to edit every line you just wrote, and you have any critical sense, you will be constantly rewriting, and get nowhere. And eventually be afraid to write anything.

What I used to tell my students, who complained about writer’s block when they tried to write their term papers, is that they should let go of any inhibitions when they start. I suggested getting started on their paper by cursing me out for assigning it. That’s a good place to get the juices flow. “May a thousand fleas infest Ken’s stinking armpits for assigning this fucking paper about…!” I give that as an example of a good opening sentence. Eventually and inevitably they’ll start writing about the topic, but without worrying about punctuation or spelling or clear phrasing or logical structure and coherence. All those matters are something to be dealt with very critically while later editing what they’ve originally produced. (Presumably they’ll have the sense to then excise such references to my armpits or any creative personal assaults on my character they came up with.)

What feedback I’ve received from this advice seems to suggest it works.

 Ken@Stange.com © Ken Stange 2012-2015