April 27, 2010
I never believed in writer’s block. I always felt that it was the result of a lack of discipline. A writer should sit down and write and eventually he/she will work through it. I’ve come to think that perhaps writer’s blocks is something a little different.
Let me explain to you my boxes metaphor. I think of my mind as a big open space with a few boxes floating around. The big open space is where I live most of my life. When my head is in the here and now (at work, with my family, doing ordinary chores, etc.) I am in the big open space.
There is a box for my reading life. When I sit and open a book, I move into one of the boxes floating in my big open space. I’m in a different world, a fun place to be. I can go in and out of that box whenever I want.
There is a box for my writing life. If I sit down at my computer, I go into that box and stay there until I leave the computer. I can go into that box in a day-dream sort of way at other times in my day as well. I go there to meet with my characters, sort out what’s happening with them, what they think and feel about the plot, tour their landscapes, etc.
Lately, I find I don’t have access to that box. I’ll step inside, start to think about what is happening with the story, but then I’m suddenly outside the box. I’m not thinking about what’s happening with the story. So, I go back in and like a mirror trick I find myself outside the box again. I can’t seem to focus on the story or the characters or anything. I sit down at the computer and type (I’m disciplined), but everything is flat. I’m only writing what I remember from being in the box–I’m not actually in the box.
How has this happened?
There is another box floating around that has its door open, and I can’t seem to get it closed. It is the box where I keep all the unpleasantness of life: world poverty, wars, communities not willing to pay for public education, divisive government, global warming, etc. That box used to work quite well. It had a strong door that I opened when I wanted to be a good citizen, knowledgeable about what was happening in the world and my community. I would go into that box when I listened to or read the news or when I talked politics with friends; however, I could leave and close the door when the news was too painful, so that it would not interfere with my everyday life–my big open space.
Now the door to that box is open. I can’t shut it. I’m plagued by the ignorance and selfishness of mankind. We are a cancer upon the earth. Unable to shut that box, I’ve tried desperately to get inside my writing box so I can be productive, do something “happy” and maybe when I come back out, the pains-of-the-world box will have a working door again. But my writing box won’t let me in.
Which brings me back to discipline. Should I force myself in front of the computer more often? If I write flat, then I write flat. If I just stare at the screen trying to access the box, will I eventually gain admittance?