18 minutes of writers block

Originally published June 1, 2007

 In 18 minutes I have a meeting with the director of Information Technology. He’s a nice enough guy. Rather than prepare for this presentation he’s put together outlining acceptable use of company technology, appropriate internet use and punishable violations, I felt it would be more fun to spend these 18 minutes trying to work through a mildly frustrating case of writers block. I have been in what you might call a slump the last week or so. The cause eludes me at the moment but essentially I have no words. That’s the problem with writer’s block – easy to diagnose, difficult to remedy.


My life in general is excellent at the moment, really. The balance between work and play is acceptable, friends and family are not an issue, finances are stable, and health is sustained. There is an abundance of motivation in the world, many a current event interests me and I am essentially centered and without traumatic stress. For some reason however, the words just haven’t been coming.


It happens. I’ve been doing this long enough to realize and recognize that this is normal, not to worry, so on and so forth. This is by no means a slump of proportions worth heavy meditation. I have managed to prattle out a few pages on a few ongoing projects over the last ten days or so. Whether it is the best of my work remains to be seen, but it is sufficient to say I have my doubts.


Ok then, the problem has been identified – I have a mild case of writers block. Experience gives me a vast array of options to rectify this situation, so let’s consult previously effective measures….


Immersion therapy: By diving headlong into the words of those that inspire me it is expected that a few sparks will rise from the fire of their writing that could in turn re-kindle my own work.


Deep personal exploration: Through Isolation and meditation I can find my center and soak in it for an hour or two, allowing random sub-conscious thoughts to surface and bubble. This tends to work well when attacking fiction for some reason.


The empty head approach: Simply stated – put everything in a drawer for a week or two and don’t think about it. Upon return the writer will often find him or herself refreshed and with new perspective. This is helpful during the editing process when it is as commonly said difficult to see the forest through the trees.


The Hunter S. Thompson method: “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me”


Obviously the last method offers the most fun. I like fun. I also like to write things that make sense when I’m sober, which is not always the case when using the HST model. I once spent the better part of a Friday afternoon smoking enough grass to mellow a herd of cattle in the hopes that it would lead to a 36 hour extravaganza of new pages. I did spend the next day and a half writing. I also spent two days after that whittling down eighty pages of work into approx fifteen pages of usable material. I’m not saying the experience wasn’t worthwhile, it was, I’m just not sure going to that extreme again in this case is the way to go.


Immersion therapy does wonders for motivation, but can often influence my words to the tune of whoever I’m reading. I’ve spent the better part of my life trying to fine tune my own voice. While I freely admit that my work is in some way a product of those I have read over the years, I’d prefer it not be a carbon copy.


I might be due for some deep personal exploration, preventive maintenance I suppose you could call it. While as previously stated things are generally kosher, it can never hurt to stay in touch with ones self.


I just can’t acknowledge the empty head method as an option at this point. It’s the equivalent of the old Jerry Seinfeld joke about seeing a no spitting sign on the subway. You probably hadn’t even considered spitting until seeing the sign; suddenly it is the only thing you can think about. Plus, putting my work in a drawer is reserved for that glorious moment when a draft is complete and needs some rest before revisions. I am not at that point currently.


So what am I left with? Some hybrid combination of focus, distraction, chemical inducement and a dash of R & R……that sounds about right. Well then, I guess Saturday night I’ll be getting high, getting naked, painting, listening to loud music and contemplating my place in the universe. Feel free to join me if you get bored – bring whiskey.



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