Sunday, May 27, 2007

Feeling blocked? Take a walk.

When I'm struggling to find the right words for a particular project, I'll grab just about any idea if it will help me get going again. Try googling Writers Block for a sample of just how desperate I can become.

But really, there's nothing that works better than sitting down and reading something good. I get energized by writers who are in control of what they're doing. I know that a lot of work goes into coming up with breezy, effortless prose that moves the point along to its inevitable conclusion. Like some wonderful things we come across in our daily life, it's an art form. And the best artists make it look easy.

Today, searching for some relief from my temporary blocked-up-ed-ness I came across an article by Garrison Keilor in Keillor is the star of NPR's Prairie Home Companion and a story-teller par excellence. He writes about what it means to be a writer, especially one with a deadline looming. And he's got some good advice on how to deal with stress.
Writers get obsessed with a project and lock the doors and sit and work at it, like animals in a leg trap trying to chew through the leg, which is not good strategy. My advice is to get out of the house and take a walk, a good first cure for the depression that hits after you've been working for a year and it dawns on you that your book is not "Huckleberry Finn" but you must finish it anyway because the publisher's generous advance has been spent on a new pair of shoes for the baby and she has worn a hole in them already, so you press on -- on -- on -- though it strikes you that the world has a great many books already and does it need yours? And the readers you most want (youth) are fixated on screens, not on paper. This is so depressing you want to tie a rock to your ankle and jump in the Mississippi, and if you remembered how to tie the knots that could hold a rock you might, but a long walk can bring you around.
I love the image of a writer caught in a trap chewing his leg off to avoid the looming deadline. There's plenty more. I recommend it even if you're not blocked up.


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