Hi, it’s Sarah Graves coming to you from Football Central, otherwise known as our house in Eastport, Maine. And today when so many blockers will be charging across TV screens, I thought I’d talk about that other kind of block.
How to, er, block it? Here’s 10 scraps of red meat to throw when all else fails.
1) Ignore it. Just…write something. Anything. Write a word, then a sentence, then — woo-hoo! — a paragraph. Momentum isn’t just key, here, it’s everything. (Hint: it doesn’t have to be good, or even make sense. Anything at all will do. Once you’re over the hump things will improve…sort of. But then, see #2.)
3) Imitate Indiana Jones. Remember when he stepped out onto the invisible bridge over the chasm on his way to the Grail? It was there because he stepped out onto it. Go thou and do et cetera.
4) Read something lousy. Read something you know you can do better than. This is not only very helpful, it’s also immensely cheering if you are, like me, a jealous and dark-hearted… well, it’s helpful, is what I’m trying to say.
5) First, deliver the marble. This was told to me by a famous sculptor named Michael Lantz when I asked him how he did it. Turned out it was a huge undertaking to get marble pieces the size he needed into his studio. Only after the marble was delivered and hauled inside — ie, the first draft was written, get it? — could he sculpt the huge figures for which he was well-known.
6) There is no ‘try.’ (Yeah, another pop-culture film reference, what can I say, you won’t get much highbrow stuff out of me.) (Except sometimes.) Yoda says this to Luke Skywalker after Luke says he’ll ‘try’ to master a difficult feat. Let go of ‘try’ and grab onto ‘do.’ And — see #7.
7) Doing instead of trying will be a lot easier if you also let go of your ego’s requirement that the result must be fa-a-abulous. At this point, the only requirement for the result of your doing is that it exist. All else is the responsibility of the rewrite department.
8) Trust yourself a little, for pete’s sake. Do you really think that your writing is better when you’re all squinched up over it, straining and sweating to be a ‘good writer?’ Personally I don’t want to read your ‘good writing’ anyway. I want to hear your voice. Warts and all, please. Plots are great and everything, but I will kill for an authentic voice, one I can hear when I’m reading. (If you want an example, see Josh Bazell’s Beat the Reaper or anything by Shirley Jackson.)
9) I used to say when all else fails, copy the phone book. You’ll do anything to be able to stop doing that, including write your own stuff. In my own case I find just the threat works well, too, though, so just copy a page or so to get inoculated, and then the threat will probably work for you, also.
10) Remember that there is a rewrite department. You’re it, but not until later! And you will be all-powerful in it, able to leap tall chapters and so on. But for now your only job is to put-put along, word after word, page after page. Nothing else, nothing so very daunting. One foot — or word — in front of the other.
And remember, it could be worse. You could be out there on that football field getting blocked by a real blocker, all many, many pounds of him. Repeatedly. Personally, I’ll take combat with a blank page — or even 375 of them — any day.