Writer’s block is something that afflicts most authors at some time or other. But sometimes this isn’t really the problem. It’s simply a matter of getting started.
You’ve taken a vacation from writing, as I’ve recommended. Or you’ve just put your work aside for the day, to enjoy the rest of your life.
I’ve already recommended writing the fun parts of your story first, just to get something down on paper.
But what happens when even the parts you personally enjoy most just don’t seem to inspire much enthusiasm?
If you’ve tried all of these remedies, then maybe it’s time to try a new one. Namely, just start typing. Anything.
Not Everyone Can Be Your Type…
In an infamous appearance on David Susskind popular TV talk show Open End, in 1959, author Truman Capote slammed The Beats’ style of writing, which was akin to improvisational jazz, saying, “None of these people have anything interesting to say and none of them can write, not even Mr. Kerouac….It isn’t writing at all. It’s typing.”
Jack Kerouac himself died in 1969, and reportedly, he never got over the sting of that remark, especially considering the source.
And yet, his books continue to be popular – arguably more so than Capote’s. Certainly On the Road is no more relevant a literary landmark than Breakfast at Tiffany’s or In Cold Blood. But in some ways, Kerouac’s work may be more influential.
The reason, at least theoretically, is that Kerouac and The Beats wrote viscerally, as opposed to the more cerebral technique of Capote and his peers.
Writing from your gut and heart as opposed to your brain won’t work alone, because ultimately you need communicate your random thoughts in ways that an audience can comprehend and appreciate. Kerouac’s style was famously free-form, but while he typed On the Road on a single, 120 foot roll of paper, fueled primarily by passion, there was a method to his madness. Otherwise it wouldn’t have become the classic that it continues to be.
The test of time is also the most accurate, because time is completely objective.
Let Your Fingers Do the Talking
Other examples of seemingly “rambling” masterpieces include the novels of James Joyce and William Faulkner, both of who wrote in streams-of-consciousness voices. But Ulysses and As I Lay Dying (for example) were intentionally fragmentary and “incoherent” in construction.
Or so we assume, since they were literary geniuses, and most of us are not. Their proven skills automatically give them the benefit of the doubt. But for all we know, they were both drunk when they wrote these words that are now studied in college courses around the world. We’ll never know, and it doesn’t really matter. The end product more than justifies their mysterious means.
In fact, Faulkner claimed he wrote As I Lay Dying in the wee small hours of the morning over the course of six weeks, and didn’t revise a single word. Which means his first draft is the one that is often cited as one of the greatest novels of the 20th Century. Beginner’s luck? More like prodigious talent combined with intense concentration and extreme dedication, since he was actually employed by a power plant at the time. That was probably a large part of his own “motivation.”
The point? You have to start somewhere.
Even the paintings of iconic artists like Picasso and Pollack defied conventional notions of form and to the untrained eye, appeared to be nothing more than sublimated emotional outbursts, unleashed on a blank canvas without any sense of discipline.
Naturally, that is not the case. They’re right to experiment, and we’re wrong to judge.
So when you sit down to write, don’t worry too much about things like form and structure. No one is looking over your shoulder. Your techniques are privately developed and frankly nobody’s business, just like Kerouac and Faulkner. Whether your narrative is deceptively simple or mind-numbingly complex, you can always go back and “fix” the flow retrospectively, once you have something to work with. Creating your story can be comparable to a sculpture as well as a musical composition.