All Eyes on Me no. 1

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So we (Christine and I) have been talking about this whole blog deal for quite some time. I have mixed emotions about the whole thing, to be honest. Will this just be another way for me to waste time and separate myself from what I really want to do? Will anyone read this? Or better still, will anyone care? Maybe, maybe not. But it does seem like this might be a good way to reach out even further into the community, and let’s face it, if you’ve spent more than five minutes talking to me, you know that I loves me a good rant! So, I guess that’s what you can expect from me. Ideally, my ranting will be both informative and entertaining and no one will take me too seriously.

My goal is to write about writing (which can be so boring)! I’d also like to write about some personal stuff (my ongoing weight-loss), maybe share some recipes, extol the virtues of yoga, and of course, talk about Philadelphia Stories. So to that end..

I never really understood the whole idea of writer’s block. I think that this is something that was invented by Hollywood. Picture the scene: cigarette smoke curls upward from a stub burning in an ashtray, a half-empty bottle of whiskey stands next to the old-fashioned type writer. The writer sits, rubbing his unshaven face, stares at the meager words he’s typed, then violently rips the paper from the machine, crumples it into a ball and hurls it toward the over-flowing wastebasket.

Do real writers get blocked? I don’t know. For me the issue is never not having anything to write about. I actually find the opposite to be true more than not. There are so many ideas banging around inside my dome that I don’t really know where to begin sometimes. Is this a form of writer’s block? Hmmm… Recently I’ve been re-examining a novel that I started almost 10 years ago and thought I had finished three years ago. Chalk it up to ego, or hubris maybe, but for some reason I feel like I need to have one more go at this thing. So here I am, workshopping it again, trying to figure out ways to fix, what I had convinced myself, wasn’t broken. It’s a challenge going back and revising work. Sometimes you get lucky, and all the thing needs is a little line editing, a little shaping. But most of the time, my work at least, needs developing. The minor characters always want to take over the story, make the major characters look bad, or worse yet, uninteresting. What’s an author to do? Kill them off, write them out–start over? Or figure out a way to make those main characters shine, make them flawed but heroic, quirky but believable. Oh, yeah, and then there’s the whole issue of plot. It would be nice if these fantastic characters didn’t just stand around and look at each other all day, it would be nice if something actually happened. But not too much of course, don’t want to run the risk of having your work thought of as plot driven–especially after you’ve earned an MFA!

I belonged to a writer’s group for a long time where plot was really the only forbidden four-letter word. I now know this is ridiculous. Nothing makes me crazier (as an editor at least) than to read something that is so skillfully crafted, where all the emphasis is on language and character development, and then nothing happens! Of course there are exceptions to this, but the movement is there, although it maybe subtle, toward some kind of change. These tiny movements can be so satisfying in a short story, but difficult to sustain in a novel.

If you were looking for an answer to this question, about being blocked, I’m afraid I don’t have one. Well, I do have one, sort of, it’s this: write. Then write some more, and then keep going. Don’t be afraid. That’s what I think real writer’s block is: fear. Usually its the fear that your work is going to stink. And guess what, it will–and then sometimes you’ll get lucky and it won’t. So now that I’ve procrastinated the appropriate amount of time, I think I’ll go take another look at those characters…

–cjs

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