Saturday, March 12, 2011

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Writer's Block

By James Curcio

The problems facing writers have nothing to with writer's block. Not in my experience. Not ever. Sure, there are days where the "juice isn't flowing." Many "pro writer" blogs will tell you to push through those dry spells. I say they have no idea what they're talking about. If you're obsessed with writing, you'll be back on the horse soon and right now you need a trip to the beach or fuck your brains out or sip single malt scotch or, just stop writing for a minute and live, will you? Maybe take some time to focus on your concepts, your plot structure, your characters. Watch a show you like. Anything but forcing yourself to write as if it's a chore that's really going to benefit you if you kick your ass and squeeze out 500 words. 

Being "a writer" has nothing to do with 5 step plans, and it has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that no matter what you do, you find yourself time and again back at the pad, or the keyboard. You want to Get rich? Become an architect or a lawyer. A famous tennis star. Write some gibberish about the Concordance of Elaisch or some other random medieval tome in your spare time, for yourself. I don't care, and neither will anyone else. 

Sweat blood, write persistently for days and years, publish...and it's possible that still no one will care. I have reached that much desired, much feared position of having people - not just friends, in fact anyone but my friends tells me this - tell me that my work has changed their lives. They "love" my work, or "I really liked your original work. What you're doing now? Not so much." I have reached thousands, tens of thousands of people with my work, and I'll be honest, half the time, I still feel like a failure. But it's got nothing to do with writer's block. (And the other half of the time I'm a rock star from Mars, so it comes out in the wash.) 

I'll shake my head at those that think my first published work was my best, but my point is, if my life was just writing, I still wouldn't be making a living at it. I dream of that. I dream of writing and creating characters and worlds that are turned into comics and movies, and having absolutely no other financial concerns. To collaborate with teams, to be able to choose them and not have collaborators drop off the planet ever couple weeks because a higher paying job cropped up or their electric was shut off. That is my dream. The Dream, to create and collaborate without waging a constant war against this invented world of dollars and cents, which represents a very real world of material goods that writers and creators need as much as anyone. I've literally seen people, friends and collaborators, drop off the map as I've said, they've died, people close to them have died, some pretty harsh obstacles have arisen, some of which were overcome, some of which couldn't be. Never one did a co-writer or artist come to me and say, "sorry man, I've just got this writer's block." (No, that's not true. Sometimes they do, but I talk to them for a few minutes and sure enough the truth is they have plenty of ideas, they were just stuck on this idea that they had writer's block and had nothing to write about, when it was really all around them. Sometimes that's my "job," to remind people that they're surrounded by inspiration.) 

But the fact that I've already reached tens of thousands of people in the process of learning my craft, in the process of discovering my voice -- that's an ongoing process, by the way, and should never stop or you're dead in the water even if you sell a million copies after that point. Maybe that's a form of success, even if it's so easy to overlook when you're still wondering how you're going to pay your rent next month. Landlords don't take traffic stats in payment, and traffic stats still don't, in my experience, easily translate into ad revenue or sales. 

But writer's block? No. Never. Writer's block is just life telling you to live a little more and come back soon. Come back when you have something new. And if you never come back, what were you doing writing in the first place? 

Pre-order a copy of The Immanence of Myth, published by Weaponized in July 2011.