The Block

Frustration1.jpgI can’t seem to write stuff any longer. Ideas are few and far between and when they do appear, attempt­ing to make some­thing come of them is always abortive. There are many pos­si­bil­i­ties that could be caus­ing this. I’ve thought of a few.

Am I writ­ing for myself or oth­ers? Should I be writ­ing for one, the oth­er, both or nei­ther? Is this the wrong ques­tion? Writ­ing for myself means I’ll nev­er write because I find oth­er things more ful­fill­ing. Writ­ing for oth­ers means I need oth­ers to write for, which means I have to decide who to write for. This para­graph makes me feel dirty.

When I do write, it is pret­ty for­mu­la­ic. I sort of think of it as weav­ing. That might put me in a rut though. I think this might have some­thing to do with always try­ing to find the appro­pri­ate con­ceit to write with. Should I always need some sort of con­ceit to write? I can already tell I am putting too many rules and require­ments on try­ing to write stuff. I don’t think it can be done with a check­list.

The stuff I’ve writ­ten that I like best always gets the response ‘i don’t under­stand it, but i like it.’ This destroys me. The stuff I’ve writ­ten that I like best is chock full of ref­er­ences to things, so I guess I assume a cer­tain amount of intel­li­gence in the read­er, or at least enough knowl­edge to under­stand the ref­er­ences. This is at odds with my desire to write things that peo­ple can engage in. My dog­ger­el stuff comes clos­est to this, but it is trite to a great degree. I’ve tried stop­ping the ref­er­ences and I think this might have con­tributed great­ly to my ever deep­en­ing stag­na­tion.

Maybe I should write like chil­dren do. I still thank­ful­ly engage the world like a child and my imag­i­na­tion is quite child­ish. These are good. Maybe I should try to work in a Shel Sil­ver­stein vein.

Maybe I shouldn’t write at all. I’m bet­ter at putting things togeth­er than I am at cre­ation. Thus I enjoy film edit­ing, writ­ing poems using ref­er­ences already loaded with mean­ing, and shuf­fling lay­ers of mean­ing and con­no­ta­tion togeth­er in regard to pseu­do-intel­lec­tu­al dis­course. I have the mind of an engi­neer, the soul of an artist and not enough dri­ve or direc­tion to suc­ceed at either. I’m pulled, pushed, churned, turned, stretched and squashed in too many direc­tions to be able to effec­tive­ly set­tle on one.

I end­ed many sen­tences in this entry with a prepo­si­tion.

• Also, I don’t think any­one cares whether they read some­thing I write or not. Or feels com­fort­able offer­ing feed­back. So it is hard to find a rea­son to work.

3 Replies

  • Heyo, Har­vey. I’ve been writ­ing quite a bit of short sto­ries myself late­ly, so I fig­ured I’d throw you my two bits.

    As near as I can fig­ure you write for your­self and every­body else in pro­por­tion. Each sto­ry has it’s own ratio of you to us, that’s just the way it works. Late­ly I’ve been using the parts of my life/history that hurt the most, because the good stuff usu­al­ly isn’t very inter­est­ing. It’s painful but also ther­a­peu­tic in a way, and the shit pores out of you. So that’s one thing to kill the writer’s block. Anoth­er thing I’ve found that works is to start with some­thing that you’ve seen or that’s hap­pened recent­ly for a page or so then start to depart from it, revise it and what­not ’til you don’t rec­og­nize the orig­i­nal event.

    As for ref­er­ences, it’s fun­ny how many times the ref­er­ence will push a read­er out of the sto­ry, their con­no­ta­tion to that allu­sion may be dif­fer­ent from yours. It’s a tricky game to use a ref­er­ence in exact­ly the right way so that the audi­ence gets drawn in. I’d also agree with Mr. Edlund there that you’re cheat­ing a lit­tle by using an allu­sion rather than describ­ing it your­self.

    Any­hoot­er, take it easy bro.

    regards,
    TJ

  • You’re a tal­ent­ed writer! Don’t stop.
    Time mag­a­zine wrote an arti­cle 2 weeks ago about Blog­ging — inter­est­ing read.

  • i think you’ve got to write for your­self, but i don’t mean that in any kind of spir­i­tu­al oprah sense. what i mean is sim­ply that if you don’t enjoy the act of writ­ing, then there is no rea­son to do it. by “enjoy” i don’t mean that you nec­es­sar­i­ly sit and gig­gle and smile while you write ’cause it’s so much fun. but do you get some­thing out of it your­self? does it help you in any way? i think that is the only ques­tion worth ask­ing, because you nev­er know if oth­ers will get any­thing out of it. and if you wor­ry too much about that, then oth­ers almost cer­tain­ly will not con­nect with your work on a lev­el that is going to be sat­is­fy­ing to you.

    from my stand­point, using a lot of ref­er­ences can be like set­ting up a bar­ri­er between your­self and what you real­ly want to express. it cre­ates a dis­tance. for instance, when asked how i’m feel­ing, i could reply with an hon­est and direct and incred­i­bly spe­cif­ic (per­haps weird) descrip­tion of my emo­tion­al state, or i could say “i feel like ben affleck when jen­nifer lopez left him.” the lat­ter is just a less spe­cif­ic, less unique descrip­tion. despite the ref­er­ences, it says less, not more — assum­ing the alter­na­tive was real­ly well writ­ten.

    by using lots of ref­er­ences you are not writ­ing to a more intel­li­gent audi­ence, you are just writ­ing to an audi­ence that has been exposed to sim­i­lar cul­ture as you. you’re an intel­li­gent guy and you seem to read a lot — i’m will­ing to bet you’re more well-read than me and 99% of the Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion. cer­tain­ly there is a strong con­nec­tion between read­ing com­pre­hen­sion and intel­li­gence, but it’s not every­thing. there are tons of peo­ple out there who are very intel­li­gent crea­tures, but nev­er­the­less have not read many philoso­phers or seen movies by Godard or what­ev­er. how are you going to touch them?

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