It occurs to me that every writer who has ever experienced, then overcome, writer’s block has written about his/her own sure-fire, can’t-miss, never-fail cure-all. I’ve read about cures that range from simple transcendental meditation, to transcendental meditation laced with a fifth of Scotch, to inky quill-applied acupuncture tattoos in homage to masters ranging from William Shakespeare to Sheb Wooley. Well, I say, ‘Phooey!’
Yeah, sister, you heard me right, ‘Phooey!’ And I can tell by the smirk on your face that you agree. Who needs the chicanery of medicine show impresarios and carnival barkers, right? The only real cure for Shywordatosis –commonly called writer’s block--is writing. Can I get an Amen? Thank you.
Yessir, folks, if you want to cure your writer’s block, just write something, dammit! Could it be any simpler?
Oh, I can hear you whining already.
But I don’t have anything to write about.
Then, maybe you’re not really a writer, Jethro. What, do you live in a vacuum? Can’t you recognize the dramas, conflicts, ironies, absurdities, calamities, and comedies that rap knuckles on your heavy-browed forehead every day? Even if your life is duller than Sherman-Williams Flat Latex (a statistical impossibility), surely you share your orbit with someone worthy of a few words of note, right? Write about your grandfather’s fascination with flatulence, or your bag-boy’s flagrant acne. Write about the postman who talks to himself endlessly as he meanders up and down your block. Or your eighth-grade algebra teacher who wore shoes five sizes too large, and held them on with rubber-bands. You cannot tell me you don’t know people like this. Think family.
Hey, there are over seven billion potential story-petri-dishes camped right in your ethereal backyard, for heaven’s sake. And millions of them are doing all kinds of weird, wonderful, wild, what-the-hell things twenty-four-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. And you can’t find anything to write about? Hell, we haven’t even talked about politicians and governments yet. And, don’t forget, family.
You say Melville stole your white whale, and now you’re barren? Do I really need to say it? Shame on you!
But my muse has abandoned me.
Oh, please. What, are you seven? Your invisible friend won’t come out and play? If writing was all about fairy dust and magic wands, writers wouldn’t have to drink so much.
Come on, folks, your muse doesn’t dance on the head of a pin. It dances in your imagination, until you get up the gumption to squeeze it out through the nib of your pen (metaphorically speaking).
It requires a lot of misspent energy to conjure, board, and furnish a silly little muse. Why not divert that energy into something more productive like, oh, I don’t know, writing?
All the good stories (novels, poems, essays, plays) have already been written.
Yeah, sure, I remember it well, April 23, 2005, 3:53 EDT. That was the day the inkwell ran dry forever. No more stories left to tell.
Oh, come on, people!
Were Romeo and Juliet the first and last ‘star-crossed’ lovers ever imagined?
Was Natty Bumppo the first and last ‘noble savage’?
Was Tom Joad the first and last champion of the downtrodden?
No. No. No!
Why do you insist there’s no room left for you? Because you’re listening to your useless, no-account, mealy-mouthed muse, honey!
Okay. I know I’ve hurt your feelings, and I’m sorry. But I’ve struggled with writer’s block just like you. And I’ve discovered its root cause:
We don’t think we’re good enough.
That really is the bottom line, isn’t it?
Well, join the club. The same club Willie Shakes, Sam Clemens, Robert Frost, Victor Hugo, Charles Bukowski, Charles Dickens, Virginia Wolf, Tom Wolfe, Joseph Conrad, Leo Tolstoy, and a slew of Bronte sisters, all attended—hands wringing.
Listen, there isn’t a writer ever lived who didn’t strap on a feedbag full of self-doubt every single day. The real writers chew it up and spit it out.
Now imagine this: You’ve overcome your fears. You’ve written a masterpiece that has been lauded and acclaimed form sunrise to sunset. You’ve really done it, huh?
But wait. What are you going to do next?
Strap it on. Chew it up. Spit it out.
Write something, dammit!
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