Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Block

It's every writer's nightmare.

The block. The darkness in front of their eyes.
The blank page, the empty screen. That's what we call it, that's what we pretend it is. The page, the screen, the canvas that refuses to fill itself. It's not our fault, ever, it's the fault of the blankness we force ourselves to confront.
It's an empty brain. A deficit of imagination, a failure of creativity, a lack of, for want of a better word, craft.
Craft, that's the thing. Any writer who thinks they're anything more, anything better, than an artisan, is lying. To themselves, and to anyone daft enough to listen.

When you want, sorry, need, to write a song or a piece of music, you don't wait till inspiration hits you. You play every chord, every note you know, in every combination you can think of, then the ones you can't, or haven't previously thought of, over and over and over again, until something happens that's worth pursuing. Then you chase that little piece of imperfect diamond. You chase that uncut stone down, you jump on top of it and hold it close to your heart. You become its trap, its world.
Then, when you're sure it's yours and yours alone, you explore it. You use whatever tools your talent allows to chip away at it, chip away at it's edges, at it's flaws.
Eventually, after many hours, days or weeks, your ability is exposed, for better or worse, and you make the choice - give it to the world, or keep it safe, in your world, never to be seen by other, judging eyes.
But you finish it, either way. You finsh the thing. You may choose to discard it, but the thing you throw away is complete, with all its perfect imperfections.

Writing isn't like that. It should be, but it isn't.

The block lets you start things. It begins things, but doesn't give you the tools to end them. It gives you characters, situations, scenarios. It doesn't give you stories, though.

Where do the stories come from? The easy, and lazy, answer is - I don't know.

The truth is different. The truth is, they come from exactly the same place as the music and the songs. They come from work.

It's a very rare writer who is a true artist. Mostly we're artisans, and need to work hard for our words.

And that's exactly what I intend to do. After I take Jake for a walk. Then wash the dishes. Then do the hoovering. Then pay the rent. And my road tax. And, well, other stuff that's important.

Once that's all done, I'm writing. Honest.


  1. I've always thought that writing and ideas form a sort of symbiotic feedback loop. Ideas come if you write and you write because the ideas come. If you sit and wait and stare out the window....nothing happens. I find it hard to plot in advance because the plot unfurls before me as I write.

  2. It's all about persistance (if you're anything like me, that is).

  3. Yup, stories come from long, hard slog. It's not that unlike music, though. If you sit and write down every ridiculous thing you can think of - or take a character and write ten stupid things that could happen to them,then why they're happening and what the consequences would be, and then throw in ten more daft things, eventually something will emerge. And if it doesn't at least you've got anecdotes for your blog!!