-- Charles Bukowski, The Last Night of the Earth Poems
Webster’s Dictionary defines writer’s block as a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece.
Ugh, scratch that. I hate any sort of "Weber's Dictionary defines..." opening. We all know what writer’s block is. And at the moment, I seem to know it firsthand. It’s not something I’m unfamiliar with, but I hate it nonetheless. It’s like that overly cloying friend that just wants to stop by and hang out for a while, while you sit there politely and wait for them to leave. It’s annoying. It’s persistent. It’s inconvenient.
There’s a scene from the old cartoon, The Muppet Babies (don’t judge me), that I remember from when I was little. Everyone’s favorite, blue alien, Gonzo, is having trouble finishing his story. All he wants to do is play with blocks. I didn’t get the joke at the time, but I understand all too clearly now. Thus a children’s cartoon created the most accurate depiction of writer’s block I’ve ever seen.
So what do you do when the ideas and words just won’t come? How do you get around a massive barricade blocking your path? There are a few options, all of which I’ve tried.
Option 1: Push through. I’ve heard some say that the way to defeat writer’s block is to strap on a helmet and simply barrel through. Keep writing. Glue your hands to your keyboard, pen, paper, etc. etc., even if what you’re producing is utter gibberish. Sooner or later you’ll strike upon something worthwhile.
I gave it a shot and ended up with the equivalent of WUI (Writing Under the Influence). It was garbage. Grammatical errors, plot changes, and nonsense was the finished product, and after what felt like hours of work, I ended up scrapping 99% of it.
Option 2: Wait it out. Another tried and true technique is to hope against hope that the words will show up on their own and the block will vanish without assistance. It seems I’ve been attempting option 2 for what feels like an eternity now. Procrastination is NOT my friend, and now with several (I’m ashamed to say it) weeks of stalling, I still don’t have the precious words I’ve been waiting for.
Option 3: Go around and skip ahead. I’ve never tried this one. With the particular format of the first two books, writing in sequence has been imperative for me. As each chapter changes perspective, the only way for me to be sure that I was keeping the story coherent was for me to write each segment in order. Save for the “epilogue” of each book, I’d written every word in sequence.
But that is about to change. I really don’t see any way around this particular obstacle, save for hitching up my metaphorical skirts and going around it. After years of a no man left behind policy, I’m about to do just that, and leave a chapter in the dust. I’ll come back to it, of course. But will this book be the same as the others? I doubt it.
And you know what? I think I’m okay with it.
Because, let’s face it, what other choice do I have?