Dilly-Dally

There are several species of writer’s block, and the average writer has tasted each variety at one time or another. There’s procrastination (that virginal dread of the sullied manuscript to come that will replace the beautiful yet vague image in the mind of what the piece might have otherwise been), there’s laziness (consummate sloths, they storytellers be), and there’s straight-up depression (fuck it all, why bother putting words to the page; I’m worthless, writing’s worthless; this whole planetful of bipedal ingrates would be better off gathered in a line and shot). These are the demons you court by trying to breed creation and destruction. (Shiva had a hell of a time, I’m sure.)

Each species has its own methodologies of realization and habitual haunts. Procrastination, for example, thrives best in idle hands: a lukewarm, uterine environment where chicken soup (or tea, if you’re British) is served every hour on the hour, and you never have to consider anything as pugnacious as an “editing phase” so long as you promise to never put word one to paper.

What it all amounts to though, is not dancing.

To me, there’s nothing as terrifying as a dance, not because I’m bad at it (which I am), but because to me dancing is as pure and inviolate an expression of the soul as there can be. It is so undeniably genuine that it horrifies me the same way that it horrifies to have one’s high school love poems read, the same way that the first seasons of Breaking Bad horrified me. It is this simultaneous fear of being misunderstood, either because you’ve misspoken (procrastination), you don’t think you have anything worth saying (laziness), or you don’t think there’s anyone who will listen to you at all (a truly depressing thought) or being perfectly understood and rejected utterly.

Ironically–aside from removing the vectors which most facilitate the conditions, distractions, poor healthcare and so forth–the best cure for not wanting to work is working, and forgiving yourself for it. Neil Gaiman rightly states that, despite endless lists of so-called “writer’s rules”, the only rule is that anything that gets you writing is good. Flaubert is quoted and translated: “Shut up and get on with it.” (A sentiment that applies universally, so much so that I keep it taped to my computer monitor, next to a copy of Hanlon’s Razor which should be part of any service-industry survival kit.) And another quote I’d love to attribute: “Successful writing arises when you can get over the guttural horror of reading your own work.”

The paradox is that artful development is 80% dissatisfaction and 20% leniency (or whatever approximation of big to small your inner idealist-sloth-nihilist requires). Indolence is strong in me and so I favor the lash. (Hypothetical Aside: Struggling artists would be better off as doms in BDSM relationships, having little control over their own lives, while those with careers might be better as subs who might find some pleasurable release in their loss of responsibility; then again, maybe that’s just not the way creators are screwed together, so to speak.)

At any rate, you need to get your butt in the chair, forgive the words that come out and just keep trying. That’s the only way to drain the pools of disdain that might drown the work while maintaining the subconscious sieves necessary for words of quality to come dribbling out.

Anyway, all of that’s just the kind of general information you can find anywhere. My personal discovery is that editing fiction doesn’t produce the same effect as writing fiction in keeping those shoals dry. As such, I’ve got a bumpy road ahead of me.




©2013 by Blake Vaughn. The text of this story may be redistributed freely in its original form with attribution to the author, Blake Vaughn, and his website, www.blakevaughn.com, as under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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