Thursday, September 07, 2006

Writer's Block is Just a Con Game

‘Americans do not write for many reasons. One big reason is the writer’s struggle. Too many writers talk and act as if writing were slow torture, a form of procreation without arousal or romance—all dilation and contraction, grunting and pushing. As New York sportswriter Red Smith once observed, ‘Writing is easy. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.’ The agony in Madison Square Garden. If you want to write, here’s a secret: the writer’s struggle is overrated, a con game, a cognitive distortion, a self-fulfilling prophecy, the best excuse for not writing. ‘Why should I get writer’s block?’ asked the mischievous Roger Simon. ‘My father never got truck driver’s block.’

--from the introduction to Roy Peter Clark’s Writing Tools—50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer.

14 Comments:

At 2:50 PM, Anonymous Sarah said...

Saw your entry and wondered if you have read this. (You'll have to watch an ad to get the whole thing.)

 
At 4:24 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Yes, Sarah, that article certainly made the rounds when it first came out, and I heartily agreed with it then, as I do now. Funny, but I seem to be accumulating a lot of material on this theme lately. A few days ago, I also happened to post a small clip about writer's block from a famous Jimmy Stewart movie, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, after I happened to be watching it and noticed a tiny snatch of dialogue that applied to this theme as well.

So anyway, the next time a writer tries to use that excuse with you on deadline, don't fall for it. Except, of course, if that writer happens to be me...

 
At 8:48 PM, Blogger Darby M. Dixon III said...

My favorite writer's block definition--and I wish I could find my source for this so I could properly attribute it--is that it's simply a refusal to write crap. It's not that you can't write. It's that you choose not to. Remembering that's gotten me through some of the tougher days. When I've chosen to, I mean.

 
At 10:02 PM, Anonymous MilesB said...

Darby's got a point. That's why when I have to write something I just start writing. Then, two or three (or many more) paragraphs in, I begin writing what I'm going to keep. The first few paragraphs are like stretching before the marathon.

 
At 11:18 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Love how that idea is expressed, Darby. The reality is that we all, even the best writers among us, write crap (or its near equivalent) in the first draft. But all real writing is about rewriting and polishing. Nobody gets it right the first time. Which is why even the grand man himself, Faulkner, said, tongue planted in cheek, that "rewriting is easy--all it involves is going back and killing all my little beauties."

Miles, I also like that idea of stretching before the marathon. Very nicely said. And as I've pointed out here a number of times, what that has been yielding for you has been some increasingly wonderful stuff. Still, I think you're only just getting started, pal.

I think it's time we organized the next writers' salon, fellows, where we can continue this and other related discussions. What say you both (and anyone else who cares to add their two cents)?

 
At 8:22 AM, Blogger Daniella said...

John,

A writer's salon would be really interesting. May I suggest my place if people are willing to travel to Parma Heights?

 
At 4:08 PM, Blogger K-Oh said...

I like the idea of a writers' salon. I'd come!

 
At 4:18 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Daniella, hope we can do one sometime at your place. More importantly, I hope you can join the festivities. And Kristin, I think you know precisely what I have in mind, since you were there for the first one. I think the same place, Talkies Bar, would be good again.

And as it happens, I've been thinking about possibly doing a theme around writing as a calling, if not exploring one's spiritual connections through writing. And so you'd be a really vital person to have there. Dear WWW readers: if you don't know Kristin's book, Stalking the Divine, please find it on Amazon (or better yet, at an independent bookstore) and buy it and read it. Or even better still, we'll be sure to have a bunch on hand at the upcoming salon, possibly in late September?, where I'll ask K to talk about her journey (both spiritual and writing), and perhaps we can coax her to sign some copies afterward.

 
At 5:29 PM, Anonymous MilesB said...

Sure, a salon would be great. Let me know what I can do to help organize one.

 
At 5:33 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

What you can do is just show up, Miles. The conversation wouldn't be nearly as good without you. I'll try to find a date that works best for the most folks.

 
At 10:52 PM, Blogger Darby M. Dixon III said...

I'd be interested in a chat.

 
At 11:51 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I think it's about time we finally met, Darby.

 
At 10:17 AM, Blogger Wordsanctuary said...

I prefer the term "dry spell" to block...Don't know if my schedule would allow for attending the salon, but keep me posted!

 
At 12:38 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Maria, I like that alternate way of thinking about writing blockages. A great point. And we will indeed keep you posted on the salon. Thanks for stopping by.

 

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