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Writer’s Block

Before I got married, I had a bachelor’s party, the details of which shall remain vague, and not for the reasons you might think, thou foul-minded masses.

The Best Man, being a charming fellow as well as an extraordinary slacker, was very, very late in getting the invitations out for the event. To such an extent that I had several phone calls with him where I had to badger him to get off his kiester and get to it. I was in grad school at the time, and every free moment I had was spent writing, or trying to write, or thinking about writing, or reading other people’s writings.

So I’m on the phone with the Best Man, and I say, “You really have to get these invitations out.”

And he responds, saying, “I’ve got a note for myself about them right now, it’s taped to my computer, it says RFNA.”

And I said, “RFNA?”

“Right Fucking Now, Asshole.”

But I didn’t heart that.

I heard “Write Fucking Now, Asshole.”

And I took a piece of masking tape, and I wrote in big black block letters on it, WFNA. And I taped it to the front of the monitor of my Mac LC (yes, it was in the dark ages), so it was always visible above the screen, and every time I didn’t want to write, I saw it, and I wrote, goddamn it.

It wasn’t until much, much later, that I realized the misunderstanding.

A lot of people had very nice posts and very nice advice about how to deal with Writer’s Block after my previous post.

Here’s the thing: I don’t believe in writer’s block.

I believe that there are days when the job is hard, and there are days when it’s easier, but I do not believe there are days when it’s impossible. I do not — and frankly, cannot — believe that there is a condition that prevents all writing from occurring. This is certainly self-deceptive of me, I know, but I have to admit, I was surprised to see folks responding to my post and calling it writer’s block. I hadn’t even considered it.

So maybe that’s what it was. Maybe not. I mean, is having to consider what you’re going to write, is struggling to try and make it work or — God forbid — to try to make it good, writer’s block?

Or is that just, you know, writing?

I don’t know. But I know that I finished the script today, and I solved my problem by shifting two scenes around and expanding a third, and suddenly, it clicked, and I finished the outstanding 8 pages in two hours.

We’ll see what happens with the next script.

16 Responses to Writer’s Block

  1. lancescott

    I don’t believe in writer’s block, either, but when I have extended that theory in the past, I’ve gotten some pretty violent reactions, like I’m looking at someone with cancer and trying to tell them they don’t have cancer, and they want to know why I can’t see the truth. Like you, I feel there are days when it comes, days when it doesn’t, and you have to keep pushing the words around until they line up right. I think writers who have preceded us have romanticized this idea of a block by writing stories about writers experiencing such a block. Some of them are damn good, mind you, but I think it creates a whole other condition where someone can allow the alleged block to happen because, you know, they want to be Barton Fink or whatever.

    It’s just another excuse not to do the work, so I don’t allow it in my vocabulary.

  2. dannyperkins

    Isn’t it a little premature to be calling the pages “outstanding”? Don’t you think we should be the judge of that?

    Since we are talking about misunderstandings. ;)

  3. incogvito

    Dude, no bullshit…but you’re a fucking inspiration. I think this is the best thing I could have ever read this week. I have 80 pages due to Simon and Schuster for Monday, and I keep putting it off because it’s so easy (we’re looking at no more than 4 panels a page, and the pacing isn’t hard either). I swear to Christ that I’m printing this story out and putting it on my calendar every month.

    And for the record, I don’t believe in writer’s block either. I never say I have writer’s block…I say I’m being lazy, because that’s what it is to me. You’re writing a lot more than I am, so I wouldn’t call you lazy…for you, there is a definite wall in the way, with bricks made of words. For me, it’s the only thing I’m working on, so there should be no excuses for not writing. I think Waid said in an interview once that he doesn’t believe in w.b. And so the “advice” (if you could call it that) that I offered was based on what Waid once said.

    I should have just told you to call Waid :)

    Glad it worked out though as CHECKMATE is my favorite book in the world right now.

  4. admin

    Yeah, I don’t know. I never want to diminish a fellow writer’s suffering, y’know? And when someone’s struggling, and when they define that struggle as writer’s block, it’s certainly real to them — so I suppose saying that “I don’t believe in writer’s block” needs to be one of those phrases that hits the I pretty darn hard.

    Maybe we’re just dancing over definitions, but, then again, the words have power, and the words matter, and they are the tools of the trade.

  5. admin

    Heh.

    Funny boy.

    Now go and admin

    Very nice of you to say.

    Can you tell what the S&S project is? Free plug!

  6. incogvito

    Free plug? I’ll take it!

    I’m working on adapting a series of books they have into graphic novels called, “Childhoods of Famous Americans.” These books have been published since the 50′s, and I guess they’re looking to reach the growing GN market. I’m working on two subjects right now for release sometime next year; Albert Einstein (who was German…so confusing) and Babe Ruth. Einstein is a bitch to write because the source material (and by proxy, his childhood) is so boring, but I think I came up with a way to look at it differently…at least I hope. Babe Ruth is so much easier because he did things…Einstein was noted for being absent minded and introspective…which is tough for a visual medium (but again, I think I got it).

    And I’m doing JSA Classified (with Eric Wight; hence the comment a few weeks back of our mutual editor).

  7. princess_allura

    I don’t believe in writer’s block either, but I do think there are times when writers hit a moment (or scene) that either makes them feel vulnerable or overcome with emotion that it has to be ‘just right’ or it just won’t work so they suddenly become blocked and unable to move forward.

    I am happy to hear you were able to move forward.

  8. mightygodking

    When Cannon and Saber steal a time-traveling muscle car in the next issue of Checkmate, I expect a big fat royalty cheque.

  9. parakkum

    Writer’s block implies a complete inability to write, but what’s probably going on for most people is an unwillingness to commit to the page something that they think isn’t very good.

    Barring disabling conditions, we can all write something. It just might be that we’re less David Mamet and more Akiva Goldsman at that moment, and we can’t stand that.

    My favorite piece of advice on writer’s block was to just write anyway. Writing for two hours and then throwing it away has the same product end state as staring at a dead page for two hours, but it offers the chance that you will actually generate good content that you can keep, and it’s less discouraging. Unfortunately, I don’t recall where I first heard this.

  10. kali921

    For many, many reasons, this post made my entire week. Not least of which is because it’s hysterically funny.

    Thank you.

  11. hero_writer

    Hrrrrrrmmm . . . .

    Okay . . . .
    You may well have a point. I’m not sure. I think we may mean a very similar condition, and just be defining it differently.
    I think.
    I work in a fashion that many consider to be odd, and some blame my occasional difficulties with writing on my methodology.
    I never outline. Ever. I start with a begining (often a single sentence), an idea of what needs to occur, and usually a firmly held vision of an end — and then I plunge right in, and go from alpha to omega, “making it up as I go along.”
    Sometimes, I hit a metaphorical wall. Couldn’t write a word if my life depended on it. Usually, when that happens, I jump ahead a ways — sometimes a chapter’s worth of words, sometimes more. Once, I went from the beginning side of the middle to the end, wrote the end, then came back and found that getting to that end logically and without a re-write was challenge enough to inspire me to break what had been blocking me.
    This usually works, though I’ve never had to jump as far as I did that one time, not since then, and that was years ago, when I . . . wasn’t who I am now.
    So . . . now I have to think about what you’ve said, and see if I can’t fit it into “old prejudices,” I guess.
    The idea that there is no such thing as writer’s block — and I understand that you aren’t saying it’s so, only that it’s so for *you* — is . . . well, appealing.
    And a little bit scary . . . .
    Must think on this. Maybe . . . maybe it’ll help next time it happens to me. I *think* it might . . . .
    So . . . thanks. At the very least, it’s something to think about.

  12. benchilada

    My recent bitchings about “writer’s block” aside, I really need to just fucking listen to the advice given by the fortune I taped onto my laptop.

    “You can’t aim a duck to death.”

  13. nealbailey

    That’s the only reason I didn’t respond with a platitude myself…it didn’t occur to me that something was wrong, only that these things happen every once in a while to all writers, and the best way to handle it is venting. There’s no real, “Aha! Bury yourself in sand!” solution, because it isn’t like a wound you can Band-ade. I agree.

    With me it’s like, well, okay, so today I’m not so hot, tomorrow I’ll just have to edit this crap a bit more than I would have had I been on today, let’s get some bones out. And then those bones come slow, with much tea, and with more Dropkick Murphys.

    I think people often mistake days with crappy ideas for writer’s block when they’re quitting for the day, and that’s why it seems such a common affliction. Or maybe it’s laziness. Both of which are perfectly valid things that happen to everyone, and should, particularly when you’re a writer that overextends yourself constantly.

    I like WFNA and no mercy (Cobra Kai! Heh), mostly because I get this paranoid feeling every time I’m not writing that I’m one of the few lucky bastards on the face of the earth who, even if it doesn’t pay, can sit my ass down every morning and fail if I need to. In other words, perhaps if I were more sensible and didn’t believe that every day is the first day of the rest of my writing life, I’d have enough common sense to drop on a day when things were failing and go mow the lawn.

    But I’ll never be that guy, and so I relate.

  14. jjgalahad

    Thanks for this. It really made me think on the idea of “writer’s block” in a way I hadn’t considered before. “WFNA” is a mantra I think I’ll be adopting in the future. Thanks again.

  15. dannyperkins

    Yes sir Mr. Rucka sir!

    In all honesty I’ve got the easiset job at the bloc. We don’t have any knuckleheads on your forums.

    Well unless you wanna count Miller. :)

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