by Robert Lopresti
week Jan wrote eloquently about writer's block. I didn't respond
in comments because I wanted to ponder for a while, and besides, this
way I could fill a Wednesday. (They keep coming around every
week, don't they?)
I'm not sure I can say anything useful about
this because I don't think I have ever experienced writer's block the
way I have heard other people describe it. The reason for that
may have to do with the way I approach writing, and - who knows - maybe
discussing that would be helpful to someone. So here goes.
I rewrite. I rewrite a lot.
I wrote that I had started a novel and R.T. gracuiously offered to critique the
first few chapters for me. (We exchange most of our works before
sending them into battle.) I had to tell him that it would be at
least ten and probably twenty more drafts before anyone would be
allowed to see the book. I have to translate it
into English from the original Gibberati.
But that's the point.
At any time I have half a dozen stories in my black notebook,
going through various phases of rewrite (from "this sentence might be
improved if it had a verb. Also a noun." to "one last adverb
hunt and it's ready to roll."). So if I am not in the mood to
write something new I flip open the notebook and rewrite, rewrite,
rewrite. It's progress, so I don't feel blocked.
What if I
want to write something new and don't have an idea? Well, I also
have a white notebook (there's no significance to those colors; but it
makes it easier to tell them apart) full of story ideas. Never
throw anything away!
I believe Jan or one of the
commenters talked about Sue Grafton's writing habits and I sympathize.
My memory is that Raymond Chandler said he sat at his writing
desk X hours every day. He didn't have to write during that time but he couldn't
do anything else. That reminds me of Edna St. Vincent Millay who,
as I recall, said she wrote poetry for a certain amount of time every
day. The questioner said "don't you need to be inspired to write
She replied that that was true "But when the inspiration comes it finds me at my desk!"
working on my novel I have set myself a minimum of 100 words a day. A
piddling amount, you say. Yes, it is. But that's the idea.
No matter how uninspired I feel I can crank out that many words.
And it keeps me connected to the work. Plus, very often no matter
how uninspired I am feeling once I get those 100 words out, the next
few hundred want to follow.
So that's what I do. As for you... well, see the title above.