I am suffering from something far worse than the flu...far worse than a pounding headache, or multiple mosquito bites. I am suffering from an extremely uncomfortable case of writer’s block. It is now going on three weeks and I’m afraid I’m never going to get rid of it. It is...my worst nightmare come to life.
The symptoms of writer’s block aren’t hard to miss: excessive tapping of fingers, gnashing teeth, constant yowls of, “ohhhhh”, walking in circles, opening and closing fridge doors, loss of hair (from pulling it too much), an inability to focus, finger cramps from hitting the delete/backspace button too much, brain cramps and persistent daydreaming.
To prove to you just how bad my writer’s block is, the two paragraphs above this one took me two weeks to write. I can’t imagine how long the rest of this blog entry is going to take. I better brew me another pot of coffee and heat up some cream of broccoli soup, because I’m not leaving this office until I’m done.
By all accounts, I should be a fountain of creativity right now. The Meddlesome Monster crew is gone and to thank us for our "hospitality" they’ve loaded up our office with great props (like a fifteen-foot laser cannon made out of balsa wood and modeling clay and a twelve-foot long rubber tentacle covered in plastic suction cups). The Fifteenth Issue is finally available and is one of our most creative issues ever. And if that isn’t enough, Christopher has been regaling us with dozens of amazing stories from this year’s Word on the Street in Vancouver, BC.
Words should be pouring out of my fingers and brain as easily as water pours out of a tap. But they aren’t.
My big concern (other than not being able to write without great difficulty) is where I caught this writer’s block from and whether or not I’m contagious. I would hate for Poinsettia to catch it, especially now when she’s so deep into her story about the Jersey Devil. Will wearing a mask and locking myself away in my office keep everyone else safe? I just don’t know.
If there was a pill or magic elixir that would make it all go away I would buy it no matter how much it cost. But alas, no one has been able to invent such a pill or elixir. It looks like the thousands of websites devoted to beating writer’s block are my only option. They are filled with great ideas (which are kind of like pills, but in word form), which fills me with hope. So I will push on, trying out a few of these ideas and hopefully I will bust that block into a billion tiny pieces. Hopefully...
Idea #1: Write! Write! Write! It doesn’t matter if it makes sense. Just start tapping away on that keyboard or writing away with that pen about anything and everything that comes to your head. Some folks call it stream of consciousness writing. I call it literary gobbeldygoop. The idea is relatable to pouring drain cleaner down a clogged drain. The stuff smells funny and burns the eyes slightly, but its purpose is to loosen up all that gunk in there and get the good stuff flowing again.
Write! Write! Write! Alright...there is a little spider crawling along the top of my keyboard right now. He has seven legs, which leads me to believe he had some sort of accident. Maybe a faulty web sent him tumbling to the floor. Maybe he fell into the crease between the F11 key and the F10 key and his leg was left behind. Just this morning on my walk to work I was stuck behind two large dogs walking a man. My favourite hot dog condiment is a mixture of melted cheese and salsa. If I ever clear this writer’s block I think I’ll make the CTQ Staff hot dogs. Well now, I don’t know if my writer’s block is gone, but I sure am hungry all of a sudden.
Idea #2: Pick an object or emotion that you are excited about and write a paragraph about it. This focuses your thoughts and gives you a solid, achievable goal. It shouldn’t be hard to write about something that excites me. Right?
If I had to tell you about all the things I like on this planet, we’d be here all day listing things off. I could tell you about root beer or pencil shavings or those ice-cream treats that are shaped like ghosts and have gumballs as mouths. I could tell you about porcupines or pine cones or conifer trees. I could even tell you about that funny sound the refrigerator makes when it thinks nobody is listening, because that sound is one of my favourite things, too. But I think I’ll tell you about something you’ve probably never heard of before. It’s called ozimby and it is a fruit grown on ERzoG-8’s home planet. It is shaped like a corn cob and even has a husk like a cob of corn, but it is nothing like corn. It is soft like a banana and tastes like a cross between a cantaloupe and a sweet potato. I’m sure that sounds a little repulsive to you, but take my word for it...it is delicious, especially when eaten with whipped cream and melted marshmallows. Ozimby only grows during a two-week period in what is equivalent to our Fall and it has to have precise atmospheric conditions for it to grow. Sometimes farmers go years without growing ozimby, because the wind wasn’t blowing the right way or the temperature was a quarter of a degree colder than it should have been. Because ozimby is so hard to grow, it is also very expensive...which makes it even more desirable.
Thinking about ozimby is making my mouth water and my stomach rumble. Maybe I should move on to the next idea.
Idea #3: Ask a friend or coworker to tell you a story about something unusual or interesting that happened to them that day, and after they’re finished talking, write down their story from memory filling in the blanks with your own ideas. Even the smallest idea can be expanded into something great and sometimes it is just that idea the brain needs to clear the block.
Ogilvy has a tendency to walk with his head pointing up at the clouds and his mouth wide open. This has lead to many strange things ending up in his mouth: water balloons, leaves, paper airplanes, roof shingles and even flies. This morning, he walked to work the same way he does every morning: head up, mouth open. He was looking up at a cloud shaped like a toaster oven when he felt something crash against the back of his mouth. At first he thought it was a large ball of hail, but then he heard a revving sound in his mouth and tasted burning smoke. He stuck his grubby fingers in his mouth and felt something that was the size and shape of a walnut. He clamped onto it with his thumb and index finger and he pulled, but the thing would not move. And the harder he pulled, the more it hurt him. Whatever was in his mouth was stuck. He quickly ran to the nearest public washroom and looked in the mirror. When he opened wide and looked inside he saw a most amazing sight. It was a tiny spaceship and its landing gear was caught between his back two molars.
Hmmm...this actually has the potential to be a pretty good story. I think it deserves a whole blog post to itself. Don’t you? Maybe I’ll hold onto it for later when I am completely healed. One more spoonful of literary medicine should do it.
Idea #4: Reread the work of your favourite author. The hope is that their creative and clever words, which have meant so much to you in the past, will inspire you again to pick up a pen or sit down at your computer and write.
It has been two days since I wrote the paragraph above and I have reread all thirteen books in A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS by Lemony Snicket. I’ve also reread my three favourite Roald Dahl books and my two favourite books in THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA by C.S. Lewis. My eyes hurt. I’m running on little sleep and I’m confusing Buckets with Baudelaires.
But I think all the hard work has paid off. I am suddenly inspired to tell you about our adventure to the costume shop to pick out our Halloween costumes. It is the story I meant to tell before I was struck with writer’s block. It is a story about mistaken identities, hairless werewolves and confused ravens that caw, “Always more! Always more!” It is a story that is clawing at my brain trying to get out. And I am so ready to free it.
So without further ado...
Excerpt from CROW TOES QUARTERLY: TALES FROM A PLAYFULLY DARK WORLD available on iTunes, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and all those other great places you can get eBooks.