When I meet people and they find out that I am a writer, there are two questions that seem to pop up:
“What do you do about writer’s block?”
“Aren’t you afraid you’ll run out of ideas?”
These strike me as strange questions to ask upon a first meeting. After all, at their foundation lie deep-seated fear and the underlying insecurity of most men in my profession. If people did the same thing with people of other professions, it might look something like this:
Me: “What do you do for a living, Tim?”
Tim: “I’m a contractor.”
Me: “Wow, aren’t you worried that your nail gun will go crazy one day, wounding your employees and piercing your eyes?”
Tim: “Um. No…?”
Me: “But you wouldn’t be able to see!”
Tim: “I’m… I’m going to go refill my punch. Excuse me.”
Strange, right? In any case, at some point the questions I mentioned at the beginning of this piece are legitimate, even if they serve as bizarre icebreakers. Here is what I think of them:
What do I do about writer’s block? I deny its existence. I have never experienced it. I think that writer’s block can come from a lot of different places, but at its core I believe that it is the fear of being wrong, the fear of performing poorly. Do I sometimes have these fears? Of course! But I write anyway, because, as Louis L’Amour once said so aptly, “Writers write.” It’s simple, but it’s true. The solution to writer’s block, in my experience, is to never allow it to happen. Some days I sit down to work and I don’t know exactly where I should go with what I’m working on, but I begin anyway. In a way, I sort of feel as though I’m on an adventure of discovery even while I’m writing. One of my friends once asked me what writing a novel was like. I told him that it was like reading one, only harder.
Still, I recognize that writing is best accomplished when the writer comes from a place of abundance. This is why we must research, this is why we must dream. It is said that Michelangelo sat from dawn to dusk in a courtyard in Italy staring at a block of marble every day for months, never touching it, rarely even moving, making no notes. One day someone asked him what he was doing and he told them that he was working. A few years later that block of marble was the statue of David- arguably the most beautiful piece of craftsmanship ever wrought by human hands. Sometimes as a writer I find that I need to sit and think for a while, but this is just part of the process in any creative endeavor. It is part of writing. When fear creeps into this process, that is when “writer’s block” begins to loom, I think. I do my best not to worry, and I write.
As to the second question, I am not afraid of running out of ideas much like most people are not afraid of running out of heartbeats or breaths. Will the number of times my heart agrees to beat finally come to an end? Yes, but not for some time now, I think, and even if it is much sooner than I expect, I have only to continue on until that time, functioning as best as I can. In my mind, there are many more good ideas to be had and written about than there are heartbeats in my chest or breaths in my lungs. Will I one day run out? I honestly don’t think so. Everything can serve as a starting point. Yet even if there is some limited number of ideas out there worthy of being written about, fretting about this seems to me to be about as ridiculous as fretting that the sun is burning out. Is it? They say that it is. Will I be long gone before that ever happens? Yes. Yes I will.
Thus, my inspirational little piece for this week ends with death and a reminder of our own mortality. Oops.
Go get ‘em anyway, writers.