Sunday, April 22, 2012

The 5 Stages of Writer’s Block


After five days without writing, everything starts to go a little hinky at the corners.

This always seems to happen when I’ve been on a real roll – the tail end of a few weeks where it’s felt as though I could do no wrong, write nothing bad, a time when even the flimsiest of ideas has blossomed at my fingertips into a row of fully-flowered crape myrtle trees, almost as though I’ve known what it was I’ve been doing all along. And so it is I’ll be feeling good, abuzz with that sort of contact high that happens when my every word connects with its intended audience, and then… NUTHIN’.

And this NUTHIN’ is the worst feeling in the world so I can’t think about it directly, but after five days without writing, the NUTHIN’ is hot on my trail and it’s closing in fast, and this is when the FIVE STAGES OF WRITER’S BLOCK kick in.

DENIAL.   During the first stage of writer’s block, it remains possible for me to pretend nothing is wrong. To go about my day on a normal schedule, to eat and to groom and to wash myself just like this gal here or like that guy over there, or even like you, over there in your corner with that dumb grin on your face. It remains possible for me to look the other way, but the truth is, I will already be exhibiting classic junkie behavior, with all the telltale signs of the gambler, the crackhead, and the sex addict.

They say that an addict who has gone without a fix looks at the world differently, looks at every single thing around him as a potential means for obtaining what it is he lacks. The gambler, if only he had that watch from around your wrist or that wedding band from around your finger, why, he could have him one more round at the craps table and this time, he could finally turn his luck around once and for all.

After five days without writing – right when the denial is kicking in hardcore – I’m the same way. Like maybe you’ll be telling me a mildly amusing tidbit about your family’s recent Passover observance and I’ll be sitting there, half-listening, figuring in my head how much mileage I might be able to get out of your tale if I were to turn it into a short story. I mean, I’m not above stealing, but could I convince readers that my family is Jewish? Can I melt it down for its parts and then Frankenstein it into something that is even remotely usable?

ANGER.   After seven days without writing, I no longer want to hear any of your cute Passover stories. After seven days without writing, I spend most of my time pacing back and forth in front of my bookshelves, snapping up a random novel here and there, reading its opening line and then plunging it right back onto the bookshelf where I found it.

I sweat a lot on days like this, and if you come into my room to, say, ask where I left the car keys or whether I need anything at the grocery store, chances are about dead even that I’ll snap at you, blaming your interruption for my failure to produce even a single word all day.

There is no winning with me when I am in the midst of this stage of writer’s block. The best you can do is to stand clear and hope that maybe it will pass quickly into…

BARGAINING.  Heaven forbid it should so happen that I go nine days without writing!

I am unable to fathom what kind of twisted bastard of a Creator-God would set into motion a Universe in which such a thing as nine days without writing is even possible. But while the twisted bastardly nature of the Creator-God might be a fantastic topic for some future blog, the ugly reality is that nine days without writing is not unknown. Nine days happens. Nine days in which I watch my blog’s page views steadily dropping farther and farther and… This is about the time when the Bargaining comes.

After nine long days without writing, I will sit in front of my blank screen and I will think,  “Hey! Maybe I can just write something short. Something to get me back up on the horse.”

Or  “Maybe I can do a picture post with some jokes thrown in to break up the monotony.”

Or even,  “Oh, the hell with it. I’ll just make snide remarks about Rick Perry again for a page and a half!”

But no matter how simple the writing goal, no matter how far I drop my sights and my standards, the Bargaining will fail. This is writer’s block, after all, pure and simple, and there’s no way to cheat it.

DEPRESSION.   After eleven days without writing, I become convinced I will never write again, that writing was a phase I was lucky enough to pass through for a little while. Now, with my writing days behind me, I am left with a couple decent manuscripts and a whole boatload of blog posts to show for it. Someday, years from now, I will pull a few yellowed scraps of paper out of a foot locker in the attic so I can show my grandchildren how Gramma Katy spent her misspent youth.  

After eleven days without writing, I stay in my room a lot, with the covers pulled up over my head, taking shots of Ni-Quil. In my mind, I relive all of the good times I had writing, those magical days before my muse deserted me. I think of the people who told me that something I’d written changed the way they thought about a particular topic or who told me that my writing made them want to try writing, too.

I lie there, like some Robert Plant circa 1984 or a David Bowie circa 1984 or a Paul McCartney circa, well, 1984, and I wonder what I am going to do with the rest of my life, a life that could – who knows? – still have another seven or even eight years left in it.

ACCEPTANCE.  After fourteen days without writing, I get up from the bed. I take a tentative step towards the bathroom. I shower. Brush my teeth. I gather all of the empty Ni-Quil bottles from my bedroom and I throw them into a trash bag. After that, I roam through the rest of the house with the trash bag, and I clean the odd scraps of paper and trash from everyone else’s rooms, too.

I wash my clothes. I load up the dish washer. I go online and do a Google search to learn how to load a dish washer properly.

I think to myself,   “I’ll no doubt be doing a lot of dishes from here on out, now that I am not going to be spending my time writing.”

Then New Me – the Me who doesn’t write – alphabetizes my nonfiction books. She alphabetizes my fiction books. My religious texts and books of poetry. I sit down in front of the television, remote in hand, I take a deep breath and – only moments before diving (for the first time) into all that reality television I’ve been hearing so much about – I think,  “Hey, you know what? I could probably make a fairly decent blog post out of ‘The 5 Stages of Writer’s Block’! Hell it’s at least worth a try…”

Then I run upstairs to my computer, and the whole cycle begins again… and again… and again…

46 comments:

  1. “Maybe I can do a picture post with some jokes thrown in to break up the monotony.”

    This made me laugh! ......because I've done that one.....a lot! HA!

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    1. YOU can generally pull off a post like that out of just pure, unadulterated attitude. I have only tried it once, and with mixed results at best.

      Some bloggers don't actually need anything in particular to talk about in order to have great blogs - especially if they post a lot. I'm am not so blessed.

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  2. It is a terrible thing having a typewriter on your back.

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    1. As long as the typewriter is up there, maybe the monkey can bang away at it for a while and see if he has any more luck than I've been having!

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    2. I stopped blogging here and there a while ago. Without question a monkey would out write me. I am resigned to occupying the the dark side of lurking. At least I will have good company. Now about that cigar I want to smoke with you...

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    3. There's a patch of slanted roof outside my bedroom window. I used to go out there for a cigar in the evening.

      But then we got the porch deal on our top floor fancied up and now I go up there. It's not as fun as clinging to an overhand, but safer, especially if I've had a glass of wine.

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  3. Agree with you. I go through the same stages. If you check my blogger, you may see SOS labelled draft posts. Movie reviews, youtube videos mostly Asian backstreet boys, Chris Crockers kind of ones and some rant posts about some bloggers who might have managed to pissed me off or embarrassing "proud parent" moments and some angry controversial ones like Abortion, "true christians", racist or about some hypocrisy and sometimes my take on posts inspired from other bloggers.
    Reviewing the list above, I think I have more things to survive an apocalypse I guess. :)
    And had one denial episode today. We went to museum and one lady was playing with her adopted kid(how did I know? the kid is Chinese) and her thong was stealing the show. Usually I would like to see the face of the person when these kind of wardrobe malfunctions happen, but this time I was thinking about whether I could put a post about it. Then realized that all these standup comedians and writers and bloggers should think the same way,right?. Now, thanks for confirming. I dont know whether I undergo bargaining stage but anger, acceptance, depression without doubt.
    Bravo Katy, you are a better writer and better blogger than most of writers I know.
    Because as far as I had noticed, when this kind of writer's block recession strikes, I see
    Lame photo - Post a lame picture of theirs.
    7-eleven bloggers - Post about coke they had bought.
    Cult bloggers - Ask people to pray for their sickness or vacation day approval.
    Penance bloggers - post about some kinder garden snitch episode
    or all the more,
    Angry dumb bloggers - pick up another innocent blogger and insult them or scorn at them.
    Looks like I can put a whole post about flavors of bloggers, thanks Katy.

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    1. My biggest blogging problem is keeping myself interested enough to finish writing the damn posts. I need to surprise myself or else I get bored and wander off and do something else. So it can't be something I've written before - or at least not something I've written for a while.

      So most of the things that people blog about are off the table with me. I can't just look in my room and come up with "What's the deal with socks?" and then write a couple pages on it.

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  4. I feel like sitting down and writing snide remarks about Rick Perry is the perfect thing for breaking out of the writing funk. Also, reading other bloggers is a great way (at least for me) of finding inspiration.
    There's also the stage of "Please Love Me" where I write desperately hoping my blogger idols will dare reciprocate my love.

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    1. Poor Rick. He's only showed up to work like twice since he dropped out of the Presidential race...

      I have a great assortment of bloggers I read on a regular basis which ought to be giving me lots of ideas. Maybe if I had the perfect avatar like you, it would all be different...

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  5. "Writing is easy. Just sit at the typewriter until your eyes bleed."

    -- Ernest Hemingway


    I agree. I'm in one of those places now; most of it is due to paying work, but I'll get back to it, eventually.

    Meantime, you're welcome to post anything you want over on my side of the fence....

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    1. If I wasn't having just awful writer's block, I might take you up on that... When I was so busy I had no time to blog, I had all sorts of ideas in my head just begging to be written down. Now? Nothing...

      I might actually manage to send something your way, anyway. I tend to NOT want to post anything here that could be time-sensitive - anything that wouldn't be as relevant in a year as it is the day I post. So most of my political and current events-related content never gets posted, and my blog remains sort of like Never-Never Land.

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  6. Bwahahahaha. This was so familiar.

    And I don't even own a TV set :D

    Well, at least you can let the tarantulas run over you when you get bored.

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    1. Hey, Bill!

      It might feel familiar, but you write more in a week than I do in 6 months. I am always stunned by how many LENGTHY and THOUGHTFUL pieces you have posted every single time I swing by your page.

      It is intimidating.

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  7. Katy. OK, first, please allow me to say, "Fuck Rick Perry!" Thanks for the forum.

    Second, come spend a couple days with me and your writer's block will be cured. With my ADHD, the problem isn't finding something to talk about but, rather, finding methods to limit said topics within a writing. Once you catch my dysfunctional disorders, you'll be full of shit to say.

    We could start a business together and teach people how to overcome writer's block and we could get a booking on the Ellen Show. You'd need to promise to not hit on Ellen because I think she and her wife are a cute couple.

    Our book could be titled "Leches and Lesbians: Beating Writer's Block With Love". We could dress up our butts for a moon show--your ass could be a frowny face with an empty word cloud and mine could be a smiley face with a cloud full of words.

    OK, wait. Maybe you'd have the smiley ass. Send me a pic of it and I can do some prelim layouts.

    BTW- how's the re-catholicizations coming?

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    1. You know, that's a good idea (the book - not the butt thing).

      If we were to become the world's foremost experts on overcoming writer's block, we would never again have to think about what to write about. We could always write about our area of expertise, i.e., overcoming writer's block!

      The Catholic thing is going slowly, I think. I think it has gotta run its natural course. The more I insert myself into it, the longer that's going to take.

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  8. jervaise brooke hamsterApril 23, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    Saint Georges day, what a pile of dog-shit ! ! !.

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    1. Don't y'all get today off for it?

      You know, so you can walk around with your flags and all?

      Delete
  9. In the first picture with the evil trees is that little girl naked ?, she looks so sexy and vulnerable to their lust...WOW ! ! !.

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    1. Trees are notoriously lecherous beings.

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  10. jervaise brooke hamsterApril 23, 2012 at 3:18 PM

    Katy, i dont know w-HEATHER its a national holiday or not, thats how divorced i am from reality. With regards to flags, i never did like waving them because patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. It should also be remembered of course that patriotism is also an ocean of lies, hypocrisy, and absurd nonsense.

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    1. While driving down the freeway tonight, I became aware -thanks to a roadside sign - that this is "Work Zone Awareness Week".

      I didn't get today off for that, either.

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  11. Is it any wonder that they are notoriously lecherous with all those gorgeous girls walking past them all the time on their way to Emerald city ! ! !.

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  12. Hahahaha

    That was hilarious.
    And as I haven't been here for a while it will be as if your writers block never happened in my world.

    That might just make you a time traveller. I can't explain what I mean by that, just the way my strange brain thinks.
    Hope you're good Katy - off to catch up - backwards - again :)

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    1. I have a lot of blogs to catch up on, too.

      That's okay, though: The best blogs aren't like produce. They don't go bad if you leave them on the shelf for a while before consumption.

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  13. god, i'll just write about crap if i have nothing to write about.

    those are the days i hear from papi, "your blog wasn't very good today."

    which usually translates to, "you blog wasn't about me today."

    xo

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    1. I have trouble writing about any old crap. I have to come up with a well-defined topic (but not TOO well-defined!) or else my posts just... suck.

      It's funny that you say that about YOUR significant other. MINE doesn't like me writing about her very much. At least not writing about her in a public fashion...

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  14. Katy, just with regards to the latest post over on "The Phantom of Pulps" site entitled "The Voice With Balls Is Back" (about the Tom Leykis show), i just wondered if you could nip over there and read it and then tell me if you agreed with what he said, cheers Katy, i`d really appreciate knowing your opinion.

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  15. I`m waiting for your opinion Katy ! ? ! ?.

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    1. Really?

      Because I thought I was being pretty nice by just ignoring your moronic OT comment.

      Delete
  16. jervaise brooke hamsterApril 25, 2012 at 11:19 AM

    Katy, with regards to "Work Zone Awareness Week" (whatever the hell ludicrous nonsense that is ! ?) you sound very bitter (and perhaps understandably so), to alleviate your rage why not try revelling and wallowing in what i said with regards to patriotism (in all its pathetic and idiotic forms) being a murderous pile of horse-shit, it always does the trick for me ! ! !. If you have nothing but contempt for Patriotism Katy you will "live long and prosper" GUARANTEED, never forget that little darlin`, NEVER ! ! !.

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    1. I am bitter. I don't want to have to think about work zones.

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  17. After acceptance comes death... or near death in my case.

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    1. Hey, near-death is better than death.

      Maybe... I don't have any firsthand information about it, so I could be wrong.

      You could be sitting around in some afterlife, an hour and a half after you die, thinking, "Why did I wait so long?"

      I have a lot of things I want to read and write and hear before I take that kind of high stakes gamble.

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  18. Johnny Guitar (circa 1954)April 27, 2012 at 8:08 PM

    Katy, there you go again, refusing "point blank" to listen to the wisdom of: Dawkins, the late and great Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, and Miller. You must go to YouTube and absorb their wisdom Katy, its the only way to dispel all those absurd and idiotic notions about so-called "afterlifes" from your mind ! ! !.

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    1. If they don't believe in an afterlife, I have no use for them.

      I have spent the better part of my life in learning how to play the harp or, alternatively, in learning how to withstand a pitchfork attack.

      Nobody had better tell me all of that was for nothing.

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  19. This is a great post - it's almost exactly how my own writing phases work. I noticed in your comments you mentioned its important for you to not get bored with what you're writing - I find this to be the cardinal rule; if I'm typing for pennies and not really interested in the topic, I'm about ready to cut myself throughout the gig.

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    1. Haha... Writing an be pretty painful when it's forced. It can be a little painful for me even when it's not.

      I used to do a lot of two-part blogs, but I have gradually figured out that the chance of me coming back the next week and wanting to write on the same subject again is low. No more two-part blogs.

      When I'm writing for school or money, I can just set myself up with a challenge that takes the requisite amount of time or space to work through...

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  20. jervaise brooke hamsterApril 28, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    Actually Katy, i was just thinking, the idea of you being "BITTER" is a ludicrous contra-twat-tion in terms simply because you`re so "SWEET" ! ! !.

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    1. I prefer "spicy" over either "bitter" or "sweet"...

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  21. jervaise brooke hamsterApril 28, 2012 at 4:40 PM

    So you like "spicy" flavour crisps more than you like "salt'n'vineger" or "cheese'n'onion" flavour crisps ? !.

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    1. Yup. Eating for me is pretty much just an excuse to consume spicy condiments.

      Delete
  22. Wow. That's fascinating: you also have reader's block when you have writer's block. This all makes sense to me, mostly because you probably feel all this about yourself, for writer's block is always caused by some sort of insecurity or trauma. Facing this and the consequences is very difficult.

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    1. I've never really considered the idea of "reader's block" before... I do tend to get into moods where I shut off from everything I like for short periods of time. No music sounds good, no book can grab me, no thought seems worth writing down.

      Russell Edson called humans "teetering bulbs of dread and dream". I probably am that.

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  23. All ways an east topic

    pull a few yellowed scraps of paper out of a foot locker in the attic so I can show my grandchildren how Gramma Katy spent her misspent youth.

    We all have had a relative that we refrain from talking about and really don't want our friends to meet. You know, the one that always manage to embarrass you and nevers turns up sober. One like Aunt Mabel...

    https://www.facebook.com/goodstuff4u/media_set?set=a.10153624597553677.1073741831.805278676&type=3

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    1. Sometimes, it is the ONLY possible topic. If I had not written this back in 2012, there would have been 5 or 6 other times I would have had to. Sadly, perhaps, it's written now and can't be written again.

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