Anxiety #1: Writer’s Block

With every sentence there’s that lingering fear that it will be your last.

Is creativity finite? Is there only so much we can use before it’s gone? Or is it a muscle that strains?

What does it mean when you can’t write?

Of course you can write. Pick up the pen. Start typing. Dictate. Commit it to something like a permanent medium.

Then hate it. Tear it up. Rearrange or edit or destroy it. Rarely love it.

There’s no such thing as writer’s block, just the fear of writing shit. And there is so much of it. Not just in the rough drafts and notebooks lining up your bookshelf and cluttering up your hard drive, but in the libraries and bookstores, too. People like it, you think. There’s hope.

But I’m not going to write crap. I’m going to be remembered as a genius. The Sage of Minneapolis. At least I’ll be remembered for not being a hack.

But what’s wrong with being a hack? A good hack probably eats better than a good Serious Writer. There’s always a chance that someone later will read your piles of shit and interpret it as a gold. It happened to Raymond Chandler. Or at least the cultural studies department will create merit.

Again, what’s wrong with being a hack? People want to consume what makes them happy. Willy Wonka seemed okay with what he did, and his products caused diabetes, whereas what you do can, at worst, cost someone a few hours. John Carpenter, Patricia Highsmith, Barbara Kingsolver, Ernest Hemingway. Sure, I could become them, pandering to my audience. Give them what they want and make a living.

Instead, you write an essay with a confused narrator, sliding between first and second person. Is this even an essay?

It’s something. And it’s a couple hundred words of something. Writer’s block = overcome.

Why does this bother you so much?

Because writing is now part of your identity, and it would be stupid not to treat it as something sacred, or a useful body part. Take care of your kidneys.

Someone once told me that when you’re doing a comedy routine you have to treat your audience with contempt. You have to not care if they laugh or not. Transferring the lesson, you have to not care if your readers like your work as long as they read it. Just like Hemingway.

But you really should be writing. Something else. Because this isn’t enough. There’s a notebook filled with story prompts and half filled ideas and you have another notebook with two aborted rough drafts. This isn’t an essay – it’s an excuse not to write something you care about more. But it’s kind of fun.

This is an ending of sorts.

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Filed under Anxieties, Writing

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