14 January 2019

Block Party

by Steve Hockensmith

A month ago, I blogged here about the agonizing decision I faced: What to write next? And you know what? I'm still agonizing.

My new book is out, I don't owe a publisher another one, and I haven't promised anyone a short story or script. I'm totally free. And I'm totally paralyzed.

Well, not totally paralyzed. I am capable of making up my mind. The problem: I'm too capable. I make up my mind what to write every three days. Which moots whatever decision I made three days before. I'm like the Flash playing tennis with himself, batting the "What to do?" ball back and forth until it's a scrap of ragged rubber and there's a flaming trench worn into the asphalt.

Please don't call it "writer's block." Steve Hockensmith does not get writer's block! (Sorry for lapsing into third person there. Steve Hockensmith doesn't do it often. Only when Steve Hockensmith feels the need to declare something Steve Hockensmith considers key to Steve Hockensmith's identity. What can I say? In some ways Steve Hockensmith is a real weirdo.)

The closest I come to writer's block, I think, is the twenty or thirty minutes I stare blankly at the screen, motionless except for the occasional slurp of coffee, when I'm trying to get my brain in gear and start a blog post. I already went through that this morning before I began writing this and, man, did it suck.

Some writers actually experience that excruciating paralysis for weeks? Months? Years? No wonder we have a reputation for emotional stability and clean living. Or not.

Actually, people don't tend to think of writers as mercurial drunks anymore. The reason: Most people don't think about writers at all. We're like Santa's elves -- the behind-the-scenes suppliers of fun and magic -- except even more overlooked. Like if Santa's elves had elves. The kind who never even get to sit on a shelf because they're not allowed out of the workshop basement.

But hey -- we didn't get into this biz for the shelf-sitting, right? We got into it for the...for the...for the....

Wait...why do we do this to ourselves?

Oh, yeah -- cuz we're writers. End of story.

If only writing a story were as easy as declaring "end of story." "It was a dark and stormy night," you type. "End of story." And then two months later a check for $500 shows up in your mailbox. Unfortunately, it requires a bit more work than that. The first step, as established above: deciding what the hell you're gonna write about. Which is usually kind of exciting but sometimes feels like slow-roasting your brain with an apple cider reduction and farmer's hash.

Looks like the kind of thing Hannibal Lecter would enjoy with a nice chianti, doesn't it? Me, I'm tempted to serve it with something a little stronger.

Come back in thirty days for my next column, when I'll either announce that I've finally decided (definitively!) which idea to turn into a book or that I'm checking into the Betty Ford Clinic.


  1. I’m glad to hear that Steve Hockensmith doesn’t get writer’s block because as everyone knows writer’s block doesn’t exist ;-) . Maybe Steve Hockensmith should hoist a drink with Archie Leach. And then, if Steve Hockensmith wants to check into the Betty Ford Clinic make sure to make your reservation early to get a room with a view that inspires great story ideas so Steve Hockensmith can decide which idea to work on. That is what the Betty Ford Clinic is for, isn’t it?

  2. From Dylan Thomas: "There are many methods, and always, when there's a will and slight delirium, there's a way."

  3. It doesn't sound like writer's block. It sounds like ADD. Maybe you should set some deadlines for yourself. Announce to the world that you will finish your next novel within six months, and then you're on the hook, which it seems works for you.

  4. Paul -- if there's one thing Steve Hockensmith would appreciate even more than the ability to make up his mind it would be the opportunity to hoist a drink with Archie Leach. So rude of the guy to insist on being dead. Come back, Archie -- we need you more than ever!

    Eve -- my delirium's probably a bit stronger than "slight" at this point. I hope the maxim still applies to "a will and an intense, persistent, highly irritiating delirium."

    Barb -- your prognosis got me so nervous I actually took an online test for ADD. I don't know how I did on it, though, cuz I got distracted and didn't finish it. Ba-da-bing!

  5. I've never forgotten "Erie's Last Day", published in AHMM in May, 2000. Write another one like that.

  6. Hey, Pam! I'm honored that you remember "Erie's Last Day" after all these years. It just so happens one of the ideas I've been kicking around is a pseudo-sequel. We'll see when/if I get around to writing it.

    BTW, did you know that AHMM published several Erie stories (sequels with no "pseudo" about them) in the early aughts? Self-promotion time: They're all available in my collection "Blarney: 12 Tales of Lies, Crime & Mystery."

  7. I believe I did read the other Erie stories in AHMM because I liked the first one so much, I remembered your name. How/where is your collection available?

  8. "Blarney" can be bought on Amazon or ordered from your local independent book store...so long as the store's management doesn't hate Amazon toomuch, that is. (Some stores refuse to order anything published through Amazon.)

  9. Here's a link for "Blarney." I hope the website doesn't think I'm spam and block me!

    "Blarney" on Amazon

  10. Thank you, Pam -- hope you enjoy it!


Welcome. Please feel free to comment.

Our corporate secretary is notoriously lax when it comes to comments trapped in the spam folder. It may take Velma a few days to notice, usually after digging in a bottom drawer for a packet of seamed hose, a .38, her flask, or a cigarette.

She’s also sarcastically flip-lipped, but where else can a P.I. find a gal who can wield a candlestick phone, a typewriter, and a gat all at the same time? So bear with us, we value your comment. Once she finishes her Fatima Long Gold.

You can format HTML codes of <b>bold</b>, <i>italics</i>, and links: <a href="https://about.me/SleuthSayers">SleuthSayers</a>