Cullen’s Whiplash Writing Recommendations: Blocking Details

Those of you still paying any semblance of attention to the endless factory of lies and deceit that is my blog will have noticed I did not, in fact, start posting the narrative serial that I said I was going to. I apologize for this, though of course, I’m not nearly sorry enough to actually post the blasted thing! So instead, in something with so much potential for meta-literature that it might break the universe and is probably going to shatter your increasingly strained patience like a fencing foil in a dragon’s mouth, I’m going to go ahead and write about Writer’s Block. At any rate, you can’t say it’s not topical!

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Ha, let’s face it, that dragon’s not shattering the foil any time soon.

 

Or, erm, dealing with Writer’s Block. I’m going to write about dealing with it. Folks, when a neurological phenomenon has a capitalized name like that, you know it’s bad. And for a writer, not being able to think of anything to write is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to his workflow. Well, except anything that actually disables him in the long term, but as you’re well aware, the phrase ‘the worst thing that can happen’ has long since come to mean ‘the worst thing that I’m thinking of at this exact moment.’ This explains how it is that so many people never top off the list with ‘death’ and also presumably explains how keggers came to be in the first place. I can think of a number of awful, awful things that tend to happen when you get several dozen young adults in a room and reduce their mental functions to effectively pre-school levels, but now I’m drifting off-topic by a considerable margin. I’m assuming you partly come here for the digressions- there are too many for it to be otherwise! Onwards!- but nonetheless, I have some obligation to actually plink these keyboard keys in the direction of the title topic.

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An artist’s impression of the Non-Sparkly comments section. The boats have aged a lot in half a year, gotta say.

Writer’s Block can come from many sources, from disengagement with the writing tostepping away for too long to burning out and losing momentum through sheer mental exhaustion. Even something as banal as a blank page in the document at the start of a day can have one hell of a chilling effect on the ability to think of something to put on it. The solution, in a lovely paradoxical way, is to just write. I can already see your wrathful comments in my mind, but bear with me- I did not say you were going to write about the same story you’re experiencing block on, now did I? DID I? No. I did not. I didn’t say it, because this is all in text. But I also didn’t type that. Anyway, while it may seem ridiculous to tell you to just write your way around your inability to write, it’s actually simpler than it sounds. Writer’s Block, you see, mostly affects the need for coherency and some faint, wispy tatter of talent in the prose and plot. You’re not going to worry about writing well.

In fact, you are going to begin writing the worst dross (ha, Britishisms!) you’ve ever put to page/PDF in your life. You’re going to take every stupid idea you can think of and type as much about it as you can, and you will give a number of fucks precisely equal to zero; no more, no less. Actually, if you can find a way to give negative fucks, do so. Logically, this should increase your store of positive fucks for giving about things you really like. Is that humor or just crassness? I don’t know, I don’t care, I’m giving you orders like some strange overweight Internet drill sergeant! Continue to write terribly. Write awfully. Write so badly that you start to feel like you’re somehow connected into the Nazis- wait, it’s because you’re writing about an SS Obersturmführer who quits his job in the 3rd SS Panzer Division to chase his dream of becoming a world-famous opera star, but all the operas in Germany have been bombed to rubble! Now he has to team up with a Transylvanian Vampire, a Hungarian Werewolf, and a Polish cabaret dancer to stop Stalin from installing an even more evil clone of Adolf Hitler as Reichsführer!

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Whereas this is a work of pure, unmitigated genius. I mean, damn, we should just give up now.

 

Yep, you’ve got the bad writing thing down to a science. Or, at any rate, I sure do (ZING! Wait, I just zinged myself. DAMNATION!). But you’re having ideas. They’re horrific ideas that might in fact qualify as crimes against humanity, and you hope to God none of your friends somehow find a copy of these drafts that you didn’t burn, but they’re still ideas. Terrible ideas lead to bad ideas, which lead to mediocre ideas, and then you start getting a tiny sprinkling of good ideas, like diamonds in the mud of Verdun. The heat of the artillery barrages formed them? Nope, that’s dumb (and highly improbable). Oh. Wait. Verdun. A short story of a young French man who takes a walk in 1939, and finds himself staring at the old fields and thinking that at least it’ll never happen again, now that could be a story worth telling. Or it’ll make everyone really depressed. Don’t worry about it making the French hate you, though, I’m not convinced there’s anything they actually like.

Side note, if you’re French and I just offended you, please refer to all the posts I’ve made where I verbally disembowel myself and then try to make balloon animals with my guts for the benefit of this fickle online audience. If all I did was offend your taste, well, at least I made an impression.

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The stoic visage of a true American asshat. Also, a picture taken eight months ago. TEMPORAL PROXIMITY IS OVERRATED, AND SO ARE BIG WORDS! And caps lock irony.

 

There are plenty of other things you can do, of course, all you not-French people out there (obviously the French are so cultured that they never get Writer’s Block), but I’ll leave it up to you if you want to scribe an authoritarian list of instructions and thought exercises for yourself. Writing may be a discipline, but bushido this ain’t; there’s not ‘right’ way to do it, but there are right ones for you. Personally, I recommend that you just write something else for a little while and try to occasionally think about the piece you’re stuck on. The human mind is big enough to keep track of two different stories, and besides, it sounds way more impressive if you say you’re working on multiple pieces at once. No one needs to know that you only typed a quarter-page for each of them yesterday. But I know. I know, and I am disappointed in you. I expected better of you, Me. Ha, you all thought I was accusing you! It turns out, I’m actually accusing myself!

Does it still qualify as a preemptive defense against criticism if my defense is mocking myself for being a terrible writer? Anybody?

Say something, darn it!

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