Wednesday, June 07, 2006

How Not to Write About Not Writing

It’s funny what you see out there, in the dark, deep catacombs of cyberspace.

There are those who have an abject terror of writing that, on the Internet, makes itself physically tangible; blogs endlessly chronicle their authors' fiction-writing output but more often their authors' lack of output. Call it writer's block, the fish-market stare at the computer (unblinking eyes, slack jaw, the appearance of a dead aquatic creature), and the terror of committing one's words to posterity on the computer.

It’s easier to blog about not writing than actually writing. Considered another way, there's a lot of writing on not writing.

Being that my health has been on the dark side of "shit" lately, and I had to take a rather melancholy trip involving family, and that I’ve been getting my periodic “Sure, I’ll take heroin, just make the pain stop” headaches the last month, I don't feel much sympathy for such diatribes or their authors, although I should.

There is a cottage industry of books on How to Write, and not just publishing and career how-tos (the information that you won’t get for your $50,000 MFA). No, I speak of the psyche of writing, the courage to be an artist. Whether they're in the "Writing" section of Barnes & Noble or the "12-Step and Self Help" aisle, there are a pantheon of volumes that can free you of your self-loathing and become a writer.

Though I have my spells, it's rare when a blank computer screen or piece of paper intimidates me. In fact, the blank screen is wonderful, because I have yet to fuck anything up, and it is amazing that I just don't leave the damn thing blank, perfect creation that it is.

Down write happy

There seem to be tons of reasons people don't write though they may bubble over with ideas and brilliant turns of phrases. Dr. Freud I am not, and sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but in any case, I dare say that people's greatest holdup is the fact they fear failure, the dread that what they write will suck ass so bad that the Dear Leader of the Writing World will come and flay them from head to toe, take their pen and paper away, and force them to work in accounting or engineering or telemarketing, and chain them to the cubicle farm of Dilbertville, U.S.A. for eternity.

But I have the answers for such cases. Listen to me, and you’ll be writing once again, freed of blocks and hang-ups. I'm not talking about all this touchy-feely-crunchy hippie-dippie-trippie-chickie Natalie Goldberg shit. Not on my watch, you pot-smoking, sushi-eating, New York Times-reading Vermont freakshow!

No, these are hardcore, practical things one can do today, at no charge.

Write away:

Quit Your Job. Fuck bills, just write. As I have related before, I once had a professor who just said not to worry about money, it would just drop from the heavens. Turns out he had a sugar momma, bastard.

Alternate strategy: Live with your parents until your novel gets published.

Get a Job. Need motivation? Get a mind-numbing, soul-destroying corporate position (see above) in which the figurative sands in the hourglass become so literal that they weigh on you, making you ill, and you realize that every second is precious, and you can't fuck around anymore.

Alternate strategy: Inject yourself with cancer cells or spend the day with Ann Coulter.

Have the Patience of Job. If you just sit and write, eventually, something good will come out of it. It's served me well for two decades, though I'm not sure what good has come out of it.

Alternate strategy: Go insane.

Copy someone else's work. When you're stuck, unable to write something original, open up your favorite volume and copy from it. Word for word, to get a feel for the author’s rhythms and style. It's amazing how this helps get the "juices flowing," especially the juicy juices, au jus and the like.

Alternate strategy: Plagiarize.

Don't break anything

Write the first thing on your mind. Here are some first lines from these "free writing" exercises, which have been as helpful to me as "free love," "free beer," and "free ipod!!!!!!"; meaning, they never existed in the first place:

“Carol took an ounce of flour and arranged it into short, parallel lines atop the kitchen table. They looked like an unformed Roman numeral III, lacking feet and heads.”

“Or the fleeting intonations of a drunk hare krishna, chanting the Beatles’ “Tommorrow Never Knows” while pulling up on his ponytail.”

“Kick up a notch, said the ringmaster. He threw his whip at the television set, left the tent and looked for someone to bum a cigarette off of.”

See how well this has done me.

Alternate strategy: Get a job at the zoo.

So if this sounds all nihilistic and grim, like an unending hamster wheel of futility or (my favorite metaphor) like being rotated on a George Foreman Rotisserie Oven in Hell, you would be correct. Don’t get mad at me, get even, and write that novel.