After a couple of years floating between English Literature and Philosophy in university, I transferred to the University of Victoria’s Writing Program in hopes of becoming the next Arthur Miller or, at the very least, one of those million monkeys everyone talks about who will eventually rewrite the works of Shakespeare. I dreamed of Hollywood, of Broadway, and every so often I tried to reassure myself that my idea of turning the movie Ishtar into a musical might give the star-studded flop some much needed redemption.
Those dreams gave way to a crushing reality when, at 23 years old, I got my girfriend pregnant — and the “impending arrival” and my life thereafter would prove to be a case of Life Imitating Art. Believe me, you’d rather sit through the first few numbers of that musical I’m working on than those college years of my life.
Yet, I did end up finishing my degree, although it was tough to concentrate with the diaper changes, sleepless nights and 4 am feedings.
The problem for me regarding writing is that it requires discipline. It’s not true for everybody, but for me, it requires more discipline than I care to exert most of the time.
If I had to count my hours of sitting in front of the glare of a blank computer screen, or the incessant TAPPITY TAP TAP of my awesome “hunt n’ peck” typing skills as I meander intellectually as quickly as the syllables appear before my eyes, I’d probably have given up a long time ago.
But I can’t give up, because at the heart of me — like most artists — I’m not much more than a self-loathing megalomaniac who has convinced himself that he has something to say.
I wrote in university because I HAD TO. I didn’t have time to get Writer’s Block, as it would have encroached on my time getting vomitously drunk and trying to slur my way into the graces of random hot dates. (The puking drunk part almost always happened; the dates – not so much)
Now, in the real world I am desperately trying to find the “writing sparks” that ignited those flames in my head and psyche, spawning those shitty sophomoric poems and plays that filled my head, blood, and bone. (That’s how I knew I was an Artist: every creative moment had emotional magnitude, I was dirt poor and my father couldn’t understand why I turned down Law School.)
My degree taught me one thing: You gotta just dedicate the time to write. And now, somewhere between getting home from my job, ignoring the dishes, laundry pile, and finding the energy to actively avoid spending quality time with my kids, I just don’t want to spend the time plumbing the depths of my soul and committing it to paper just so I can say “Did you read my stuff?” to anybody.
I have also learned that certain measures should never be taken to overcome Writer’s Block.
I have tried many remedies, including eating three red-hot beef ‘n bean burritos from 7Eleven in hopes of incurring lucid dreaming, which inevitably led to heartburn and more-than-lucid nightmares. I tried the Bukowski route: drink until every beautiful nuance comes out angry and pathetic and watch your manual dexterity completely disappear. Even the imbibing of British Columbia’s best known agricultural crop didn’t work — as it usually resulted in gales of unrestrained laughter followed by staring at various inanimate objects and regularly precipitated trips to 7Eleven for three red-hot beef and bean burritos.
You can’t take shortcuts to overcome Writer’s Block. You just have to sit and bang those syllables out, regardless of how little time, energy and passion you have at that moment.
And keep doing it.
“Writer’s Block II” Drew Coffman @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.