How I Beat Writer’s Block

Ah yes, the famous writer’s affliction strikes again. But this time, instead of grovelling at Writer’s Block’s knees, whimpering for it to please go away and let me write, I kicked it in the ass, hurled it off my porch, and threatened to pull off its gonads if it ever came ’round here again. This isn’t some sort of guide, and this solution will probably only work for me, but here it is, how I beat writer’s block.

First, the backstory. I’ve just recovered from a week of semi-insomnia and maybe a month or two of lousy writing. Now that I spend the bulk of my time shoveling different kinds of composted shit, writing has become just about the only useful thing I do (unless you count honing my Fallout skills and learning how to cook lentils), so it was pretty damn distressing when the old WB left me with nothing but Fallout and beans.

But like I said, this time I didn’t curl up on the floor and whimper. This time, I kept fighting it, trying to beat it. So, the first key thing when it comes to beating writer’s block is PERSISTENCE.

Of course, no amount of persistence could fix the fact that I was subconsciously pretending to be Stephen King. The solution to that little problem came when I made an effort to RE-DISCOVER MY VOICE. Which didn’t do me any good as long as I had no stories I felt passionate about writing, so I WROTE OUT MY FRUSTRATION. The result was this: A tiny story called Writer’s Block, and the solution to my problem. Enjoy!

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WRITER’S BLOCK

I was scowling at the computer screen when she came in. She was the last person I wanted to see, and I couldn’t get rid of her. As I heard Andrea sitting down next to me, I let out a small sigh.

“You’re looking rough,” she said. I shot her a frown and turned back to the computer.

“Writer’s block.” She took a sharp breath.

“I’m sorry.”

“Yeah…don’t worry, I’ve got it under control.” She leaned forward and read what little there was to read over my shoulder. When she slumped hard back into the chair, I knew what was coming. When I looked over at her, she was rolling her eyes.

“Wow….read enough Stephen King lately?” I glanced to the computer, and then back to her, turning in the chair and eliciting that mousey squeak from its poorly-oiled bearings.

“What?” She smiled up at the ceiling with mock innocence.

“Nothing. Just a familiar style, that’s all.” Now, I turned the scowl I’d reserved for the computer on Andrea. Her mocking sarcasm was hard enough to take on a good day, and it was not a good day.

“You’re saying it’s unoriginal.” She looked up at the ceiling again.

“’I stole one last glance at the old pocketwatch as it tumbled down into the sewer drain. The light of the setting sun flashed off its face for a moment, and then it was gone. Hopefully, forever.’” She looked at me with those scalpel-sharp eyes of hers, and gave a similarly sharp smile.

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing, if you’re writing for Hollywood.” I felt my face flush immediately, and put up a noble battle against the urge to stand up and shout at her.

“That’s not Hollywood!” I barked. She rolled her eyes again.

“Wow…nice to meet you, Mr. I-Can’t-Take-Criticism. New in town? No, I think you must’ve been here a while.” I realized my nails were digging into the arms of the chair, and I tried to slow my breathing and calm down. With her still smiling that goofy, incisive smile, it was difficult.

“I can take criticism.”

“Clearly not.”

“I can!”

“You can’t. If I told you what I wanted to tell you, you’d hit the roof and then yell at me to leave.” The fact that she was right was infuriating, as it often is.

“Tell me.”

“No.”

“Stop playing games!” Andrea’s smile broadened.

“You really don’t want to hear it.” I sighed, my anger finally exhausted.

“No, but I probably need to hear it.” Some of the sharpness went out of her eyes, and her smile grew softer.

“Now there’s the right way to ask. But you have to promise me you won’t yell.”

“What do you care if I yell.”

“Promise me.”

“What does it matter if I get angry?”

“Well, we can’t have you getting your blood pressure up, can we?” she mocked. I almost wanted to shove her out of the chair.

“Fine. I promise.”

“Good.” She folded her hands and leaned forward. “First of all, I have a suspicion that I know where this story is going. Let me guess: main character buys weird pocketwatch from old gypsy, discovers it has supernatural powers, uses them, pays dearly, finally decides to get rid of it.” Her rightness continued to irk me.

“I wasn’t sure where I was going with it,” I lied.

“Fine, I’ll pretend that’s true for the sake of argument. But what the hell’s the deal with the style?”

“What’s wrong with the style?” My face was getting hot again, and I was leaning forward, trying to bore into her skull with my eyes.

“It’s forced, and like I said, it’s pretty Stephen King-ish.”

“Stephen King’s a good writer.”

“Right. Stephen King is. But Brad Gorham pretending to be Stephen King is something of a hack.” I could feel my carotid artery pulsing against my shirt collar.

Nothing came out of my mouth but a long, drawn-out Hhhhhhh. I couldn’t bring myself to say the H-word. I stood up (the chair squeaking like a rat), and balled up my fists. Andrea, as always, did not look concerned.

“Sit down. You’re not going to hit a girl, and even if I was a guy, you wouldn’t hit me because you know that I’m right and you’d feel terrible afterwards.” After standing there for a moment drowning in bile and breathing my own hot exhaust, my fists loosened and I sat back down. “Besides, I didn’t actually call you a hack. I called Brad-as-Stephen-King a hack.”

“You know how easily other writers influence me.”

“Stop making excuses. Like it or not, you’re trying to be Stephen King.”

“I’m not!”

“Oh, shut up,” she said playfully, “You are, and you really ought to stop lying to yourself. You’re trying to be Stephen King, because you like his style. But I can tell from the expression you had on your face that you don’t enjoy his style. You don’t like trying to write in his style. It’s too hard, and it’s no fun.” She was right, and my anger had been replaced by rueful concession.

“Okay. So what do I do, then?”

“It’s obvious.”

“No it’s not.”

“Yes it is. Get back in the groove. Find your style again.”

“How?”

“I don’t know, you’re the writer.” That made me smile a little, and Andrea caught my smile and magnified it. “Try writing from your own perspective.”

“What about, though? I lose interest in everything I try to write.”

“Well, write what you know. Write about writer’s block.”

At the front of the house, a key rattled, and the knob made a clunk sound. The door squeaked (sounding nothing like a mouse), and heavy footsteps thumped down the hallway.

“Sounds like George,” said Andrea, getting up from the chair and turning to leave.

“Wait a second!” I protested, swiveling to face her as she paused in the doorway. She looked down at me.

“What?”

“We’re not finished yet!”

“Well, you’ve got something to write about now, so hop to it!” She smiled and walked out into the hallway. A second later, George walked in, sweaty from his run and breathing hard.

“Who were you talking to?” he rasped, wiping beads of sweat from his huge forehead. I almost said Andrea, but I stopped. George wouldn’t really understand. But I said something fairly close to the truth.

“Myself.”

Movie Review: “Crank 2: High Voltage”

A few years ago, I saw Crank, and think of it now (as I did then) as the cinematic equivalent of chugging three Red Bulls and staying up all night playing Grand Theft Auto: a hell of a lot of fun, but high-calorie, dangerous, and bad for you. At the risk of overextending an already-flimsy analogy, this is how I see the sequel Crank 2: High Voltage: like snorting an ounce of cocaine cut with meth and then sprinting across the highway. That is to say: insane, stupid, but ridiculously thrilling.

In this paragraph, I usually talk about the plot. Not this time, though, for one simple reason: I’m not exactly sure what happened. High Voltage has that same insanely fast-paced, no-holds-barred, in-your-face action that Crank had, only magnified by a factor of several million. Enough bloody gunfights, sex scenes, and wild characters flit past to fill two or three full-length movies, all crammed into your brain in an hour and a half. Here’s the “plot” in a nutshell: insane hitman Chev Chelios did not, as rational people might think, die after falling from a helicopter onto a Cadillac. Oh no, he lived on to have his heart removed by surgeons-turned-gangsters (or gangsters-turned-surgeons), and replaced by an artificial pump. Now, he must keep it charged while he runs around kicking ass and doing wild, bizarre things and killing a lot of folks. Here’s the kicker: he charges it by getting shocked. That’s not the only massive suspension of disbelief heaped on the viewer, but it sets a sort of weird tone for the rest of the movie. Crank, at least, could pretend to some kind of plausibility, but High Voltage has stumbled several yards over the line separating “well, it could happen” from “utter bullshit.”

That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the sequel. What little of it I could integrate, that is. If you don’t want to spend the fifteen bucks to see it in theaters, you can replicate its effect rather easily: stare at a rapid strobe light for half an hour with death-metal (I suggest Rammstein) turned up to full blast in the background, and that’s pretty much what it’s like to watch High Voltage. In all seriousness, I would warn all epileptics not to even consider watching this film. The cuts are fast and jittery, and the whole thing is very in-your-face. It has taken me (no joke) almost an hour and a half to even begin to recover from the sensory overload High Voltage caused. Here is where the director lapsed into insanity. High Voltage is so frighteningly intense that, after about half an hour, I couldn’t even make sense of it anymore. My brain could no longer integrate the lightning-quick scenes and surreal segues, and I saw everything through a sort of dizzy tunnel vision. It is not an exaggeration when I say that High Voltage is not a movie meant to be watched by normal humans. If you watched it through twice in succession, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell. Your brain would probably also liquefy, so don’t try it.

All in all, though, High Voltage is a juiced-up high-calorie mind-blowing sexually-charged insanely-intense adrenaline-fueled amphetamine-shot of a movie, and if you’re looking for cheap thrills, you’d probably have to take actual drugs to top the angry spasticity of this movie.

Final Judgment: * * * * * * * * – – (8 / 10)

Idea: The Un-Game

Once again, an idea came to me while I was in the la-la land between waking and sleeping, and I thought I’d share it with you, dear reader(s): the Un-Game. Basically, the Un-Game is a piece of software that looks and behaves more or less like a video game (in most cases a first-person shooter), but isn’t. It has the same sort of graphics and controls, but no plot or real objectives. The idea came to me while I was being generally disappointed by both movie versions of Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris. The 1972 version was long and depressing and strange, and the 2002 version missed the spectacle of the planet entirely. I realized that it wasn’t likely that anybody would do a re-make any time soon. But the only other venue with special effects to do justice to Solaris is the video game industry. And thus, the idea of the Un-Game was born. Here are a few examples:

Solaris: The player wanders around Solaris Station, maybe interacting with the crew, but they also have the option to go out and just look at the scenery, watch the suns rise and set, and observe the ocean’s strange transformations. That would be the main focus of the game: trying to visually re-create the symmetriads and agiluses that Lem described so vividly in the book.

Schizophrenia: Something like this already exists in Second Life, but I’d be interested to see a more thorough, first-person treatment that lets non-schizophrenics like me get an idea of what the symptoms are like. This could also be applied to other dieseases like epilepsy or autism: the player could have goals like go to the grocery store or drop the mail in the mailbox, and try to do them in spite of the symptoms.

Hallucinogens: Many moons ago, I played an interesting modified version of Tetris. The rules were exactly the same, but the player had to combat drug-induced hallucinations while slotting the blocks into place. Once again, I think a first-person-shooter-type perspective could be interesting here, giving people an idea what it’s like. This one has the most potential for development into a traditional FPS.

Training: I know that simulations like this already exist in huge numbers, but as I keep saying, I think the FPS perspective has a lot to offer here, allowing people to experience the dangers and intricacies of a new job or a new task.

What I’ve Been Doing Lately

  • Occasionally wallowing in blog-related guilt, mostly brought on the fact that I haven’t been posting anything because I’ve been…
  • …working a lot, and spending most of my spare time…
  • …writing because I’ve finally recovered from another spell of writer’s block, and because I’m suddenly feeling a matehmatician-like “pressure to publish”. Fortunately, I’ve still had time to do things like…
  • …see movies. For example, Knowing (starring Nicholas Cage, directed by Alex Proyas), which I thought was pretty decent until around two thirds of the way through when it basically became religious propaganda. Still, it was nice to have a movie to watch since…
  • …bugger-all’s been coming out lately. Here is my ultimatum to the movie directors of the world: can the stupid remakes, the stupider sequels, and the even stupider (God, how did we sink so low?) romantic comedies and various other slush. Pretty much all the movies I’ve seen (in theaters and through Netflix) lately have been more or less unwatchable…
  • …like the 1972 Russian version of Solaris, which, although it was more faithful to the actual plot of the novel, was so drawn-out and depressing and awful that I just gave up watching it and sent it back. It switches from black-and-white to color at random, there are long boring segments that serve no purpose (after all, who wants to watch traffic for fifteen damned minutes?), and it’s three fucking hours long. Now, it wins big points in the carnality department, but only because the Rheya of the 1972 movie is so much hotter than in the 2002 version with George Clooney (don’t get me wrong, though, I have no problem with Natascha McElhone…ahem…right). Apart from the previous bullet points there…
  • …hasn’t been much to talk about, which explains the lack of updates. As for why I decided that this would be a good format for a post, well, I guess you can just…
  • …chalk it up to sleep deprivation, which always makes me think very highly of my stupider ideas.