I heard an interesting interview with Woody Allen recently where he said he didn't believe in writer's block. This is an interesting observation coming from him because of all writers, you can't accuse him of having ever suffered it. Between his nearly fifty films, dozens of plays, collections of essays, and an opera, the Woodman is, for better or worse, full of ideas and committed to writing them down.
The same can't be said for me, I'm afraid. To paraphrase the great playwright and screenwriter, Michael Kanin (though I've heard this attributed to other people), I don't like to write, I like having written. There's great satisfaction in finishing a piece, but it's boring and hurty to sit here and write it down, which doesn't bode well for my income. I'm thrilled to finally have a job getting paid to write (albeit write copy for hair extensions or house painters or Botox), but it means the blank page is no longer just daunting, it's a serious liability. I don't mean to compare myself to Woody Allen or Michael Kanin, but it would be fantastic to continue writing for a living, which means I must rid myself of my most threatening occupational hazard.
Dream: Never suffer Writer's Block.
Goal: Achievable. Actors and especially writers love to speak longingly of “the Muse”, that ephemeral bit of inspiration that encourages the recipient to inhabit that character, put on that performance, or write that story. Yeah, alright. I understand that idea, but it makes us seem like a bunch of flakes. I was once in the hallway of an audition with an actress, who lividly stormed out when she realized she would not be given “a warm-up space” so she could “decompress and really connect.” We were both auditioning for “wedding guests” and I believe the lines for the audition were, “Yeah!” and (guests cheer). You have to decompress for that, lady? Anyway, my point is, coal miners mine coal, dog-walkers walk dogs, actors ought to be able to act, and writers ought to be able to write. Screw the muse, suck it up, put pen to paper.
Plan: Use a variety of go-to's, standby's and back-ups to ensure that when “the Muse” is absent, or the juices aren't flowing, I'll still have stuff to write about. Such as:
Sex. People love smut, so when all else fails, a sex reference is sure to draw the reader's eye. For example, punch up: “He returned her gaze, impenetrable. What happened that night? What did he know?” With “He returned her gaze, impenetrable. What happened that penis? What did he know?” Aren't you more interested in the story now? What did happen that penis?
Simile. Nothing beefs up a required word count like some sweet, sweet simile. Take “She was hungry. She stomped into the kitchen. 'I'd like some turkey.' she demanded.” And now compare the same passage, but simile-ridden. “She was as hungry as a chubster served only yogurt. She stomped into the kitchen like one member of a herd of oxen. 'I'd like some turkey as big as my ass.' she demanded, like a real demanding woman.”
Stakes. This applies to acting as well, so feel free to use this tip and become your next party's Ted Danson. If there are no stakes for a character, no risk if their objective is not met, we're not interested. So raise the stakes for a more interesting story. For instance, “Billy couldn't wait for the big game. He grabbed his stick and helmet but when he checked his closet, his skates were gone! His favourite skates! 'How will I play in the game today if I don't have skates?', he wondered.” Is a much less enthralling tale than, “Billy couldn't wait for the big game. He grabbed his stick, helmet, and skates, but when he went to leave the house, he realized, his Dad was gone! His only father! 'How will I grow up well-adjusted with a strong male influence?', he wondered. Jeepers, Billy, how're you gonna get out of this one?
I suppose, like cooking and oral sex, the only way to become better at writing is to do it all the time. Despite what I said before about not liking to write, but enjoying having written, I can honestly say it's a joy to blog, and tweet, and write copy about Botox. I may not always have interesting or funny topics, but putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, always gives me a smile as big as my ass.