Saturday, January 09, 2010

Writing Through Writer's Block

I'm finding myself at a loss for words as the new year has begun. I'm not sure what's behind that, but I do know that it presents a problem for me, because I've committed myself to a fair bit of word-manufacturing.

I blog here, and I blog at Strangely Dim, and I write a column at Burnside Writers Collective, and I write reports on how writers might improve their manuscripts. I write status updates on my Facebook account, comments on links I post there and comments on other people's status updates and links. I even write tweets--carefully crafted (in my mind, at least) sequences of 140 characters that go out to my followers on Twitter. I get paid to write the reports, but the other writing is perhaps more urgent to me--not because people are counting on me (imagine needing someone's tweet!) but because by my writing I've come to define my identity. My business card says I'm an editor, but in my heart I'm a writer.

So writer's block isn't just an inconvenience to me, it is, in some ways, a crisis. One solution is, of course, to write about not being able to write. See what I did there? I've done it before, and it's actually often a helpful exercise. But writing about not being able to write has a finite appeal. It's circumspect to the utmost. We--all of us--don't (or shouldn't) write for the sake of writing; we write to find our own way, and to point the way for others, to something on the far side of writing, some resonant idea, some observation that releases us from some paralysis, some gateway that once unlocked allows us to progress. We write not for the sake of writing but for the sake of our souls, and the souls of one another.

So, I suppose, I apologize for this post. It's embarrassingly self-indulgent; I had my own little gateway that needed unlocking. We'll see what turns up on the other side.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is a wonderful book by Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello, and Stephen Colbert, WIGFIELD, The Can-Do Town That Just May Not that uses as a premise the notion that the writer has received (and spent) an advance and now, faced with a just won't quit writer's block, must come up with 50,000 words to satisfy his contract. The writer gets stuck in a nasty little town/sludge heap and uses that happenstance as the basis for a book. Not for the easily offended (the town's main industry is three competing strip joints) but a fun read for those who consider themselves active citizens in the Colbert Nation.