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.

Comments and conversations on this post

  1. 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.


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

  3. 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?