The One About Writer’s Block

Writing is hard goddamn work. In college, I probably wrote a novel’s worth of information between my business related major and my minor in creative writing. My old laptop is a figurative graveyard full of dead papers whose relevance has long since come and gone; ordinary icons mark their final resting place like digital tombstones. Every one of those papers took weeks to come to life, only to be buried in obscurity by a minuscule audience of people who were more focused on my grammar than the power of my argument. 

Please don’t take my wistful commentary as a complaint. Those papers served their purpose. Some enlighten me. They taught me about ideas I never realized that I cared about until I had to defend them with sources and interpretive contentions. For brief periods they were even obsessions that I raved about to anyone willing to listen. They made me think hard about things I didn’t even know existed. They even made me a better writer in some respects. 

The one thing the graveyard of ideas didn’t do was make me a more prolific writer. I naively assumed they would. I have read a few books about writing and every single one claimed that writing arbitrary amounts of pages a day would make it easier to write. While that might very well be true for some, it is sadly not true for me. 

I am a chronic sufferer of my own standards. I write, delete, write, delete, write, and delete yet again. Unlike the graveyard, these bits of writing do not occupy a folder on my desktop. They float around my head like ghosts, a product of the unfinished business of an incomplete work. 

My problem has nothing to do with content. I have never lacked ideas. My imagination has always been the most productive part of my brain. I don’t consider myself some great novelist who needs a big break. I feel that my ideas would make for something fun to read on the beach not thoroughly studied in a leather-bound chair. I have long accepted that I would never be the next F. Scott Fitzgerald. I’d be happy to have half the prominence of J.D. Salinger… without the track record of problematic fans trying to impress Jodie Foster or Todd Rundgren. Better reign this thing in before the authorities get involved.

My problem is my own criticism. I am a harsh critic of writing in general. I have a low threshold for cliches and lazy literary devices. While I can tolerate these indiscretions in other writers, allowing them in my own work is a bridge too far. You’ll never find out that it was all just a dream at the end of my stories and I would rather throw my laptop into a wood chipper than to describe any night as “dark and stormy”. I am too proud to find the easy way out. This leaves a lot of ghosts.

You may be wondering what the point of all this is. You’re not alone. You see, Tyson (our fearless leader) needs an article and I am the man for the job or would be if I wasn’t so busy looking back at all the stories that never were. Here I am going on and on but I am offering nothing. 

I guess my point is, sometimes you need to muscle through it. I think I do my best work as the deadline approaches. You’d be surprised at how much you can accomplish when you have no other choice. I mentioned my pride earlier and pride is a funny thing. The nagging mental defect that keeps me from finishing my writing is the same mechanism I fall back on when a story is due. I don’t like letting people down and you’d be amazed how little you care about an inconsequential literary device when those same people are watching the clock. It’s moments like those that I am reminded of the words from the French writer Paul Valery (paraphrased from the original French), “a work is never truly completed, but abandoned…”

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[This post was originally published at Otherverse Games & Hobbies]


C.W. “Sarge” Kennedy is a weird, portly war veteran living in southeastern Massachusetts. He has some kind of degree from an accredited university but you wouldn’t know it by looking at his gaping maw as he tries to operate simple technological devices. Room temperature IQ aside, Sarge is a cohost of The Citizen’s Guide to the Supernormal podcast, collaborator on the YouTube Channel Sarge the Destroyer, obnoxious Tweeter known as @bastardprophet, and part-time Instagram train-wreck. If you like short stories with questionable grammar, you can buy two of them at Amazon. He has no other valuable qualities according to people who know him.

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