“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” Stephen King, On WritingStephen King wrote that.
On my good days, I remember that Stephen King - Stephen mofo-ing King, a man with both an amazing body of work and an absurdly cute dog - apparently considers me talented. I’m not going to be using my income from writing to buy a solid gold pony, or even a solid gold hamster, but I have made it into five figures. That was over three years, mind; not exactly a lucrative career but enough to keep me in beer and boots.
On my bad days, I remind myself that those three years were over six years ago and that my cumulative work since having children are four dull and forgettable pieces for business publications and a few blog posts where the amount of swearing considerably outweighs any interesting content.
I have written many other things. Birthday cards. Endless childcare forms. Snippy work emails. Impassioned diatribes to government representatives on refuges, childcare and the environment, and less worthy but no less impassioned comments on Facebook on how Tropic Thunder is a great Christmas movie. But having failed miserably to write anything of substance in the last, oh, four years, it has come to the point at which I have to face the fact it may not be writers’ block. Maybe I am just not a writer. Maybe I am just a non-writer with notions.
Let me tell you of the many joyous stages of my recent non-writer’s block, now with additional swearing and maybe some CAPS.
The astute amongst you (okay, actually just those of you still reading this self-indulgent hot mess, YOU GO GUYS) will notice I opened this with a quote from a book. Reading books about writing is a great way to be a writer but not write anything. It is super-meta and I can’t recommend it enough. You can sit in coffee shops or on buses or work meetings (phone under table, of course) basking in the warm glow of being a writer without actually producing a single word of original text.
Bonus; I didn’t even read a book on writing! I vaguely remembered the quote from back when I used to read books about writing and put an absurd sentence into Google (stephen king pay my gas bill) and it did the rest! Google can do basically anything. Go on Google, take the wheel and write this bitch! Autocomplete my fucking manuscript! Take my first word, fill in the second, third and fourth words, and ad infinitum!
...please also give me the first word.
I would like to be writing, I really really would, but I need to research for world-building. Did you know there is a page devoted to autocomplete games? Shussssssh, I have a high score to beat.
Don’t want to write anything new? Have you considered the endless joys of editing? You look over some stuff you wrote a while back and actually it's not too terrible. So you add in a bit, and spruce up a bit, correct some errors, change a few outdated references... and you’ve been working for 3 hours without actually having written anything new. It’s the literary equivalent of reheating mystery frozen foods from back of the freezer to find out what they are or attempting to serve up regurgitated 2am curry chips as a balanced meal.
EDIT IT ALL
Cut the word count. Cut it. Keep cutting. More. Even more. ALL OF IT. Remove all the extraneous words. Kill your darlings. Trim the fat! Throw out your notebooks. Destroy your pens. Give your clothing to charity! Fuck it, donate a damned kidney, you’re not using it right now. EDIT YOUR LIFE. The fun thing about editing is the more you do it, the further you can get from writing.
EDIT SOME MORE
Keep trimming and strimming and editing until eventually you have just one sentence left, which you present with twitchy-eyed pride to an unwilling reader declaring it a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. You are a prodigal sculptor releasing a tiny but perfect figure from a mountain of marble, or a brilliant archaeologist brushing fields of dirt away to find one arrowhead or - lets be more realistic here – a deluded fanatic painstakingly polishing your turd for years to reveal a tiny perfect lump of curiously preserved sweetcorn at the core. Such a fine line between wordsmith and turdsmith, don’t you think?
YOU NEED A PLAYLIST
You really really do.
Maybe you aren't crap. Maybe it's just low blood sugar. Eat something. Eat everything! Fall down the rabbit holes that is cookery videos on YouTube and embrace a new career as a pastry chef! You can justify it by saying you will write about it some day. Or you can write 5,000 work blog posts on how to make toast for recipe sites.
"To understand what makes this toast so good, I need to tell you a long-winded personal anecdote about Russia in 1986, which I will begin by quoting War and Peace in its entirety..."
Fuck you. I don’t have Writer’s Block, I have Non-Writer’s Commitment. I am so good at not writing I haven't done it in years. Don't want a thing written about? You should call me. I will absolutely never write a tell-all book about your deepest darkest secrets because I have no muse left, bastarding Google won’t give me a first bloody word, and I am still editing down my 1,200 page Livejournal into a line of useable text. (The sentence is currently, “Wow, I was so drunk guys, sorry!”.)
OH GOD JUST FUCK OFF I AM TRYING MY HARDEST OR AT LEAST A TEENY BIT WHILE CURATING MY SPOTIFY PLAYLIST AND LOOKING UP RECIPES FOR ROAST PORK AND ALSO DISTRACTING MYSELF WITH MEMES HAHAHA I FOUND A FUNNY MEME
For those of you hoping for a point to all this, or some useful advice, in case it’s not obvious you will need to go elsewhere. May I suggest the rather excellent On Writing by Stephen King?