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Writer’s Block Update

November 28, 2005

A few days ago, I posted about my realization that I have writer’s block.  I haven’t said boo about it since then, so figured an update of sorts was in order.

Friday afternoon, while the wife and her parents braved the malls, I took myself off to a nearby Barnes & Noble.  It was a gorgeous day, perfect for sitting outside, and so I did.  And there, as Westlake moms passed, Starbucks in hand and kids in tow, I had a conversation with myself.

It was a written conversation – more like an interview, really – and it gave me a way to air my thoughts and talk about my problems with the only person who fully understands them – me..  It also helped me see more clearly the traps I have been falling into, the stupid habits that I somehow developed somewhere along the way.  And, it helped me to see a way out.

Aware of my bad habits and all the things I have been doing to sabotage myself, I decided to make some rules to focus my energies.

An example.  I have a tendency to obsess over a single paragraph, or even a sentence within that paragraph, and write the damn thing over and over again until, before I know it, I’ve spent three hours typing the same thing over and over.  So I made a rule.  From the moment I start typing a paragraph, I have thirty minutes to finish it. 

The other rules are pretty similar.  No browsing on the internet.  No obsessing over stupid details like the seasonal winds in Italy or the plants commonly found in a Roman garden.

They are all things I have told myself in the past…but having them written out…having them there to refer to…I figure will help me to stop myself when I start falling back into my old habits.

And so far, that is proving to be the case.

Yesterday afternoon, in my first writing session since devising the rules, I wrote four pages and knocked out an entire section.

I cannot say it will continue…but it was certainly an auspicious beginning.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 28, 2005 11:25 am

    Glad to hear that you are back on track. Remmber, if that doesn’t work…you can always get a pellet gun, go into the woods and shoot off a few rounds of spaghetti. OK, maybe it won’t help with writers block, but it will make you laugh.

  2. Tim permalink
    November 28, 2005 7:50 pm

    I remember reading an autobiographical essay that Ray Bradbury — a prolific writer who never suffered from writers’ block — once wrote about his writing style.

    Keep in mind that Bradbury was a short story specialist and didn’t take a shot at novels until his career was already pretty well developed, so his process would be a little different than yours. But, after reading what you wrote, it seemed appropriate.

    Bradbury would start every week writing a story. He’d write it start to finish — no going back to edit, no re-writing a sentence — in one day. His discipline was that there was no going back, because he was afraid he’d get stuck. On day two, he’d re-write the same story. He’d then write version three on the third day, etc. In short, day seven was always his final re-write. And once he got there, he was done. He’d consider that story locked in stone, and he’d go on to the next one.

    There’s something to be said for that. The nice thing about word processors is that they make editing easier. The bad thing is that, well, they make editing easier. The web probably just compounds the problem because it’s one more way to self-edit (browsing for details, etc.) as you write.

    Seemed like good advice when I read it years ago. Sounds like you might be onto something.

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