Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Writer’s Block: The Basterd Returns ...

" ... Mostly I’m writing this because I need to get my head out of my ass and write ..."

Writer’s Block.

I want to deny its existence.

The sad fact is, an inordinate amount of people complain and curse about it, so there is grounds for its standing in reality. Writer’s Block, the Basterd, or whatever we want to call it, rears its ugly head at the worst of times, for me;

When I’m tired.

When I’ve had a great run of words and stories and blog posts.

When I’m sick of hearing (or reading) my own voice.

When I start feeling like nobody gives a shit.

When I start thinking I’m Ernest Fucking Hemingway.

I suppose my recent lack of writing activity could be attributed to this affliction. I suppose I want to blame SOMETHING, so why not WB? (Henceforth known as the Basterd.) Today I had enough of this and literally (yes LITERALLY!) hauled my brain out of neutral and grabbed a pen/paper and began scribbling things; notes, sentences, phrases, inarticulate doodles, letters! Anything.

Immediately I had ideas for twelve posts.

Beside me on my desk are piles of crumpled post-it notes and folded bits of bond paper that I used to jot down various thoughts and ideas during my workday. Occasionally, I would root through these and make more notes. I discovered that shuffling through that sheaf of paper made me excited again; ink, pen, and the goddess of creativity were upon me. Huzzah!

I find that I don’t actually lack for ideas. My problem is when I stop writing for any length of time; I get rusty. The old finger/brain symbiosis dries up. I get afraid to put words down. I start feeling like I never wrote before.

Is this the Basterd at work?

Stephen King, that insanely prolific and crazy author we all know and love, wondered at various times in his career whether he had anything left to say. And after his horrific car accident he, for obvious reasons, could not write for a long time, months actually. Upon returning to his desk and writing again he also felt like he'd never written before; he was terrified.

Stephen King? Afraid to write? It’s true.

My little lesson learned: I may allow myself a break to re-charge once in a while, but I will not allow it to continue. The Basterd must not win. And if we imbue Writer’s Block with human traits and refer to him as the Basterd, perhaps it’ll help us hate him, and fight him off. Anthropomorphize the sonnuva bitch so we can kill him where he stands. Scratch that: hangin’s too good for him. He deserves a good vaporizing.

The Basterd of course comes in many different forms; musicians get it, so do artists and actors; even world class athletes are prone, but they call it a “slump” and it is just as crippling. So what causes this? If I knew I’d be a millionaire. How do you cure it? If I knew THAT I’d be a billionaire. Many have tried to decode the Basterds DNA; Philosophers, scientists, even Tony Robbins tried to help a hockey team get out of its horrendous slump (L.A. Kings?) and failed. Most come up empty. I’m coming up empty right now.

I guess we’ll have to live with it. And fight on.

Last night I had a revelation though; I started reading Edward Abbey’s the Journey Home. Besides the excitement I had about getting my grubby hands on such a rare out-of-print book, I marveled at the fact that he wrote that manuscript on a low-tech typewriter while sitting atop a Fire Lookout (Numa Ridge) in Glacier Park Montana, completely isolated; no phone, no internet (1975, hadn’t been invented), no ANYTHING! (Except bears, which he called G-bears, or more affectionately, GRIZ.) His sole companion was a citizens band radio and his own thoughts.

Imagine that? With all the technology and information and communication we have at our disposal…

It made me think. I have NO excuses for not writing. NONE. I imagine myself up there where Ed sat for three months, 3000 feet above sea level, isolated and alone with only a typewriter and nothing but the sound of his own brain knocking away! My hands get sweaty just thinking about it! No computer! No Information! I think I’d go starkers, and not in a good naked kind of way. Stark raving MAD.

Back to the point.

Mostly I’m writing this because I need to get my head out of my ass and write. And I suppose the best way to fight the Basterd is to write about it; get the fingers moving, get the blood pumping, circulating, and boiling. Get the old mind-cylinders a-firing. It’s the only way. There IS no other way. You only beat the Basterd by writing. You only beat the Basterd by writing.

You only beat the Basterd by writing.

And If I repeat that to myself, I'll probably start believing it, too.

David Hunter, The Writers Den ~


  1. David,

    Unfortunately my dark poet within only comes forth in a storm of words when I am in great emotional or physical pain. So I can empathize with your writers block. I often feel damned either way. The tortured poet, oh dear!

  2. Writer's block is different for everyone; thus diagnosis is impossible...

    My particular problem has roots in fatigue and/or motivation.

    Motivation meaning this: Writing is hard when you're at the bottom! Writing is hard when no one's reading or listening! Writing is hard when you feel no one cares...! These things may be at the root of Writers Block for me more then anything.

    But oh that dark side of yours! I lack one of those, unfortunately...

  3. Look at you, pounding the piss out of Writers Block...I LOVE THIS SIDE TO YOU DAVID! I'm positive that you'll come out of this with some great new ideas! :-D

  4. The time/space/work/writing equilibrium needs improvement, but Ideas I got!

    As for this side of me; I love it too. It's strangely freeing.

    Thank you, and comment again!

  5. I could totally relate to what you were saying about feeling "rusty." I, sometimes, will go a week or more without posting anything because I feel like I don't have anything to say worth writing about. And then, of course, as SOON as I write something it seems like I IMMEDIATELY have about a million ideas and I should post them RIGHT NOW, heh. Most of the time, I just write the other ideas down in my "writing ideas" notebook to revisit another day in order to spread these things out a bit and devote what I feel to be the needed time and attention to them. It's been working pretty well for me, lately but I DO get those times where I just can't think of anything AT ALL, or someone already "said" it better than I did, or I just don't have the time/energy/resources/etc to cover it like I want to. I have a tendency to edit myself to death, as well...right into just not posting it at all, lol! And then, sometimes I feel overwhelmed and try to wait it out....

    Anyway, after all of that ramble, my point was, I totally, TOTALLY understand where you are coming from and truly enjoyed this post!

  6. You know there are times I believe writer's block does exist and sometimes it doesn't.
    But I totally agree with your post :)

  7. Simply writing will not cure your writers block--I think that's just a myth, imho.

    For me, it helps to take a break and read something I haven't read before. Or, simply going to the museum gets the juices flowing again. There's just something about being surrounded by art that will cure the block for me.
    Good luck with it! I'm sure it won't last long as you seem like a very positive person.

  8. That's the beauty of discussion, the many different views on things. I am inclined to agree that simply writing will not necessarily cure writer's block, but it's better then not writing, isn't it? for me at least.

    But you are right as well; after picking up that Edward Abbey book I perked up and got motivated again. So you're theory has some merit too.


  9. Wow. I just just got through cursing all that is literary in my own podcast about this same issue! WB hit me right in the kisser -- and I can't seem to get the swelling down! I too, know there is really no excuse not to write, but my mind is getting humped by matter and it doesn't seem to be responding to the logic. LOL Thanks for giving voice to the hopelessly afflicted.



  10. I very much enjoyed reading this post and the comments. For me, it seems that my "blocks" come when I get stuck inside my head. It's not something that happens to me, rather than something that I do to myself.

    I'm learning that to get out of the funk, I need to actively make the decision to do something. As you, and several others have said, it may be read, to write, to get out of the house and take a walk or to call a friend who makes me laugh. The most important thing is to do something. The worst thing I can do is nothing.

  11. Great! Who'll give voice to ME? I'm hopeless AND afflicted!

    Thanks for stopping by, and go write dammit!

  12. Way to knock the basterd down! Well done! Great post!

    I totally agree that stopping writing for any length of time is dangerous. I try to touch whatever WIP I've got going at least once a day, even if I don't have time to write.

    My little obsession on my blog (for lack of other useful things to say) has been "oddball sources of inspiration" because I think when you scrape the bottom it helps to let in any stray crumbs just to get started again. It's at:

    Going back to the tedious old writing exercises helps too, I think. Though I despise writing exercises.

    And while I'm no poet for sure, I find that writing poetry (or picture book text or song lyrics) -- things I'm explicitly not qualified to write -- helps jog me into writing mode again. I spit out an itty bitty picture book story a couple of mornings ago and it restored my confidence in filling the blank page with whatever nonsense comes into my head.

    Loss of faith seems to be the source of a lot of this WB affliction. I think distracting our egos from that self-scrutiny with any kind of semi-engaging writing activity helps us forget the loss of faith and remember the task at hand....moving the hands across the keyboard, forming images out of words.

  13. YAY! Davis beat the Bastard! Whenever he shows up around here - and for a while, he had a permanent address here - the only answer is to meet him face to face, pen to paper...he doesn't stand a chance.
    I'll write him a letter... tell him how he's not welcome and that he will NOT steal inspiration from me...HA!
    Gettin pissed seems to do well for me when facing the Bastard... and as long as I face him, I win everytime!
    Good to see you winning David!

  14. I have always maintained - & I've received plenty of guff for this - that "Writer's Block" doesn't actually exist.

    It's the name we've given to fear, procrastination, lack of motivation, insecurity or, well... the list goes on & on, really. It could be one or a combination of things that plague us, not necessarily as writers, but as people.

    For me, it's often caused by my brain being too preoccupied with other bits of life shrapnel that get lodged in my mind, thus blocking me from focusing on whatever it is that I'm trying to write. It annoys me, but I know if I just wait for it to pass, it will, just as it has always done.

    The struggle is an internal one, that usually, only the writer - the person - can work out. It has to be done alone.

    Stephen King had to face down the blank page alone, just as we all do.

    Basically, it's the junkyard scene in "Superman III" where Good Superman has to battle the Evil Superman, facing off against himself.

    And, yes... I'm also sort of implying that wearing tights helps when facing down that blank screen.

  15. Writer's Block, is normally nothing more than ME getting in my own way. So, normally I just need to figure out why exactly it is that I'm blocking my own abilities from coming through. Sometimes I need a mental break, other times a bit of encouragement. When this happens, and the words don't flow freely, I think sitting an imagining the scene I need to write about greatly helps me to simply write down what I've visualized, until I can let the pen take off on it's magical and inexplicable course on the page. Plus, visualizing WB as a monster than can be (or has been in my case) vaporized, never hurts, either. :)

  16. First of all, I'm glad you're enjoying the book :).

    Second of all, I wrote something for your Halloween edition thingy... but it's a handwritten poem and I have to type it out. Not a short story -- didn't have time for that. A poem can say just as much, nonetheless.

    Third of all, don't ever doubt yourself -- life is too short for blockages. In many ways, I suffer from the same affliction, for different reasons... my schoolwork and dry, rancid essays keep me from being as creative as I'd like to be. You have work, and I have school, but we need to find a way to persevere and beat the ugly bastard down with an ugly stick!

    I'll see you on the flip side, David...

    - Stars from the dark side -

  17. Know the feeling.

    I've nothing further to add as the 'Bastard Writer's block' is perched on my shoulder too....

    Hope the sun comes out soon :)

  18. I know it's very frustrating when you want to write but you can't because you forgot how to write, or you don't know what to write. I usually find that writing when I'm tired actually helps, because that's when I get most of my writing done. But it works differently for everyone, so I guess there's no set way to cure writer's block. All you can do is write, even if you think you can't.

  19. I read something, usually just before I go to sleep and one word, phrase, can set off a wealth of ideas or spice up a dull scene. So I take paper to pen, like you did, and write it long-hand. It works wonders for me.

    Good luck with your writing.

  20. I'm sorry you are under a Bastard attack. I am a newly out of the closet writer - no I'm not gay...I have just always hidden my serious stuff and I blog my silly humorous side instead. So I took a leap of faith (a very stupid jump) and started a new blog for some of my shorter stories. It's awful putting myself out there but I do it anyway. Writer's Block for me is nothing more than fear and when I freeze from fear I start simply writing total crap -- anything that comes out of my brain streaming - and something triggers a memory or a feeling or a moment in time and I begin to write again. Grey Goose vodka also helps. I love writing long hand but it is hard for me at the moment for reasons that aren't important - but I can sit at my laptop for hours and just type away. I wish you well and if you find the perfect Bastard amulet, charm, spell, missile, whatever, kindly let me know. Just don't expect me to wear garlic around my neck to keep him at bay. Cheers.

  21. Is the new spelling to differentiate a fatherless child from the demon we all cope with? I'm proud to see the basterd out of the closet and gaining public awareness. I've got my basterd beater out and am ready to rumble. You tell that basterd to come visit the west side of chicago...we'll take care of him.


  22. Enjoyed the post and the comments very much.


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