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.