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Bread Crumbs From the Void #10: Literary Cryptids: The Myth of Writer’s Block

Alex Schumacher

Literary Cryptids: The Myth of Writer’s Block

by Alex Schumacher

 

Time to put the children to bed, because I am back with another vile and profanity-filled Bread Crumbs from the Void! As I commence my tenth installment I wanted to seize the opportunity to express my gratitude for those of you who have continued on this journey with me. There is no accounting for taste, but I am certainly touched in the depths of my empty black soul that you are still interested in my booze-soaked ramblings. Pour yourself a tall glass of your favorite adult beverage — or a nice cream soda if you are a pussy or a recovering alcoholic — sit back, relax, and enjoy the rhapsodic lines to follow.

Imagine, if you will, a world where prose, poetry, and narratives flowed effortlessly from the fingertips of all who wished to express themselves in such a fashion. A world where every word etched on the page, either digitally or with a pen, was pitch perfect. Writing is no more difficult than breathing, and required no more thought than taking a shit. Do you see this glorious utopia? Do you?

Well, get past it because this world will never exist, sweet cheeks. Never. Fucking. Exist. Writing requires not only hard work, dedication, and precious bodily fluids, but also a realistic grasp of what you are up against. There will be numerous obstacles facing you during the course of any piece you set out to write.  At times said obstacles may stem from previous commitments, an execrable god-damn day job, or (god forbid) a family emergency. There are many real, tangible elements such as these which are beyond your sphere of control and may be the lemon juice in your cold sore now and again.

One of the main sedentary occurrences hindering writers throughout history has been the dreaded writer’s block. I am here today to assure you of one thing and one thing only. Writer’s block is pure and utter bullshit.

Writer’s Crock

Before I reenact the fall of the Berlin Wall using writer’s block as my target, it is important to know the adversary. It is virtually impossible to defeat an opponent without first gathering as much intel as possible. I will start by providing the basics. Just what the fuck is writer’s block exactly?

In Irene Clark’s “Concepts in Composition: Theory and Practice in the Teaching of Writing”, she defines writer’s block as “a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work or experiences a creative slowdown. The condition ranges in difficulty from coming up with original ideas to being unable to produce a work for years. Throughout history, writer’s block has been a documented problem.”

What this definition fails to mention is the mythology and hyperbole surrounding the perception of writer’s block. Like organized religion, this “condition” is documented by fallible men and women making the attempt to explain or quantify that which they do not know. They harbored a desire to put a name to the monster which held their aspirations and achievements at bay.

In the church, or temple, or mosque depending on your particular set of beliefs they called this evil Lucifer. Satan. The Devil. They used the depiction of this being to explain why humankind had such propensity for misgivings or wrongdoings instead of taking any god-damn responsibility. In turn, writers devised the nefarious writer’s block.

Here is the deal, kids. Just like the Prince of Darkness, writer’s block is a figment of your fucking imagination!

You read that correctly. Writer’s block is no more real than the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, or the aforementioned Beelzebub. They all exist solely in the mind despite the countless eye-witness claims. There is a sucker born every minute, and if those poor saps want to drink the Kool-Aid and believe in dragons, ghosts, and writer’s block then let them. The myth will bury those dumb-shits soon enough and there will be more room for the rest of us.

You came here for the secret behind writer’s block, so now I plan to give it to you. Hard. A little foreplay. No lube.

Are You Experienced?

I have experienced the symptoms you attribute to the phenomena called writer’s block. Everyone who has ever put pen to paper — or fingers to keyboard — has experienced them from time to time. The mental constipation. The idea mill grinding to a halt. The strangling dread caused by the thought that you will never be able to conjure another fucking line as long as you live.

It is time to take off those depends and stop wetting yourself over such foolish concerns (unless you enjoy wetting yourself, then keep on truckin’). What the average writer refers to as “writer’s block” can be boiled down to a couple temporary afflictions. None of which are insurmountable.

Fear can be one of the more crippling handicaps. Fear of being unable to translate what is in your mind onto the page. Fear of being derivative or unoriginal. Fear of offering your guts and soul to the scrutiny of the public at large. Hell, just the fear of barfing up some sweltering, rambling pile of shit can be enough to twist your G-string into a knot. What you need to keep in mind is that the majority of what you write, especially on a first pass, is going to be atrocious.

The notion that a piece of work must be perfect the moment it emerges from the birth canal of your mind is ignorant, at best. In reality you will be left with a placenta and blood covered blob which you will then have to rear and shape into the novel, poem, essay, restaurant menu, etc. that you wish it to be. As is the case with any love child, etymological or otherwise, you will have to force the little fucker from the womb before it can come into its own. It does not have to be, and will not be flawlessly formed from the get go.

Another malady, which more often than not is insidious in nature, is time itself. Time to let your fingers do the walking. Time to allow your brain to properly and fully transpose your brainchild to the page. Most importantly time to edit and revise.

Modern life is busy, to say the least. You and I have day jobs, families, mistresses, drug habits, and a surplus of other such routines just begging and bidding for your time. If you are truly eager and hungry to write then you need to make time for the endeavor just as you would any other facet of your existence.

The inability to write when you are interrupted every five minutes by your child wanting a cookie or the German Shepherd puking on the carpet does not equate to writer’s block. The fact that the few sentences you pinched off before dinner with the in-laws left your apartment reeking of hot garbage does not constitute writer’s block. Writing (and specifically writing well) requires girthy intervals devoid of interruptions or distractions.

Given these are two of the biggest enemies to creativity, here is a list of some weapons in your arsenal to combat their tyrannical reign:

  • Do something physical to get the heart pumping such as running or fucking.
  • Read some of the writers who inspire you and get out of your own head
  • Listen to some of your favorite recording artists (preferably on vinyl)
  • Create a routine, stick to it, and guard your writing time!
  • Make a fresh pot of coffee (and toss in some whiskey like I do)
  • Bite down and simply start writing, one word in front of the other. You might even find that will open the flood gates and stop you from thinking about the bile you unleash.

In fact, you should expect to have far more defects and foibles than gems in the first few drafts. It can be disjointed and non-linear while you are sorting it out. Jettison the idea of perfectionism from your mind because writing is not scientific. Writing is not as cerebral as some would have you think.

The only writing that truly matters and perseveres is that which springs directly from your emotional core. Emotions are not measured or appraised with facts and figures. They submerge your head under water until you believe you will lose consciousness and only then do they release you. That is how you should be writing.

If you would like to hear me elaborate a bit more on my own process, you can find links to a couple of interviews conducted recently with me on my website at: https://alexschumacherart.com/about/. Drop me a line from the contact page if you have any other questions, complaints, or declarations of lust.

Bread Crumbs from the Void will return in two weeks, when I will spew incoherently about influences in the world around us, literary and otherwise. Until next time, keep scribbling you freaks.

 

Stalk Alex online:

http://alexschumacherart.com/

https://twitter.com/AJSchumacherart

alexschumacherwriter@gmail.com