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!
* * *
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.
“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.”
“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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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?”
“No it’s not.”
“Yes it is. Get back in the groove. Find your style again.”
“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.
“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.