Writer's Block, or Why Does the Flashing Cursor Mock Me So?
October 11, 2011
“I'm writing a book. I've got the page numbers done.” — Steven Wright
At least twice every week, I sit down and write a blog post. Usually, this is no problem and the words just flow right out of my mind on to the screen. Then, I spend an hour or two rewriting and I’m done. If you’ve been reading my blog posts lately, you’ve surely noticed an emphasis on science, space, science fiction and fantasy. I want to write something decidedly not in one of those fields. There is just one problem: the words aren't flowing out of my mind. In fact, there are no words in my mind. I've run directly into a brick wall: writer’s block.
“I gotta tell you, the life of the mind... There's no roadmap for that territory... And exploring it can be painful.” – Barton Fink (John Turturro), Barton Fink
A blank sheet of paper. A flashing cursor on a field of white. These simple things can inflict upon writers a sense of existential dread. The brilliant Coen Brothers' film Barton Fink portrays a pretentious hack writer’s struggle with writer’s block as a descent into Hades itself. Even Stephen King, the master of horror, says of writing that "the scariest moment is always just before you start." If the creator of the nightmare-inducing clown that's really a giant alien spider monster (It) finds a blank piece of paper terrifying, how will I ever get started on this blog post?
“To begin... To begin... How to start? I'm hungry. I should get coffee. Coffee would help me think. Maybe I should write something first, then reward myself with coffee. Coffee and a muffin. Okay, so I need to establish the themes. Maybe a banana-nut. That's a good muffin.” – Charlie Kauffman (Nicholas Cage), Adaptation
I must begin my search for inspiration. But first, I think I’ll procrastinate a little. Yeah, a nice cup of coffee would be good, and caffeine stimulates the mind. Nothing. What have I been reading lately? Science and science fiction, which is exactly what I don't want to write about. I must come up with a BRILLIANT IDEA.
BRILLIANT IDEA #1: I’ll ask my Facebook friends for a topic! “Friend” and master of sarcasm John Williams responds with "Studies in the transference of creativity and responsibility through social media channels". Touché, John, touché.
BRILLIANT IDEA #2: I’ll surf the Web for inspiration. Several hours and hundreds of hilarious videos of cats later, I’m still without a topic, having already written of the Internet's fascination with cats.
BRILLIANT IDEA #3: I'm obsessing over writer's block, so maybe I’ll write about that. I'm sure there are lots of witty quotes about writer's block. In fact, entire movies have been made about writer's block. DING DING DING WINNER! Hey, I’ve just written a blog post about writer’s block!
“Of all fatiguing, futile, empty trades, the worst, I suppose, is writing about writing.” -Hilaire Belloc
Touché, Hilaire, touché.