Saturday, February 3, 2007

Saturday Night Writer's Block Party

Writer's block doesn't exist. That's what I've been told, and I believe it: the arguments are so logical. William Stafford was a noted writer's block skeptic. What you have to do, he said, is lower your standards. People who think they have writer's block are trying too hard to be good. Just write! he said. Just do it.

I had a teacher once who said that it was a matter of being too proud to write the crap that you have to write in order to get to the good stuff. I've also heard that there can't be any such thing as writer's block, because there's no such thing as carpenter's block or plumber's block or tennis block.

This is all true and convincing. Nevertheless, after six years of sitting down at my desk almost every day, after six years of just doing it, I have nothing to show for it. Well, I have hundreds of pages. But I have no novel, no short story, not even a haiku.

The pages fall into two categories. One: writing that, whether it is "good" or "bad," means nothing to me, and that I would just as soon throw out. It's empty. Or two: writing that I kind of like, that seems pretty true and not bad and maybe even funny, but for the life of me won't hang together in any kind of shape. It refuses to congeal into a thing with a beginning, middle, and end.

The best metaphor for how this all feels is impotence. You've done it before, you know in great detail how it's supposed to go off, and God knows you WANT it... but it ain't happening, baby.

There are about a thousand possible contributing factors (babies, politics, a contract that went sour, and yes, pride, and yes, wavering commitment, etc., etc.) none of which means a thing when it comes down to it. Kindly friends have suggested, "Well, maybe it's not meant to be right now... maybe you should try doing something else..." Ultimately this might be the sanest choice. But I can't not keep doing it. I can't stop trying to unlock this door. I know I have the key to it somewhere.


zoe said...

What about a memoir?

Anonymous said...

I'd read it!