On writer’s block and inspiration
It’s Christmas Eve morning and the oven is cleaning. Soon, I’ll be in the kitchen baking another couple of batches of cookies to deliver to neighbors and friends. This evening we’ll have our annual holiday meal with friends/family. Tomorrow we’ll open gifts and then collapse to try to recover. Pretty much what so many other families around the world will be doing. Making this a particularly special Christmas is the fact my son is home. This is the first time I’ve seen him in six months and it’s possible we won’t see one another for another two years because of his next assignment. So, we are doing our best to enjoy the time we have together. So, my brain isn’t exactly firing on all cylinders this morning.
That said, I never quite manage to turn off the writer. I still check the headlines and blogs for writing related news. One item that caught my eye this morning comes from Slog and shows why we should look at social media as a love-hate relationship. Yes, it is a way to connect with friends and fans. But it is also a way to post an innocent and well-meaning statement and find yourself under attack for it. No, I’m not talking about the cis-males and glittery hoohahs. In this instance, someone took to Tumblr and asked, “what advice do you have for someone that has had writers block for the past 6 or 7 years?”
That seems like a simple enough question. Looking at it — and not reading any of the responses — it seems to me that someone who either considers himself to be a writer or who wants to be a writer is asking for advice. Nor did the response from Marvel Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis really surprise me. It’s pretty much what I would have said, although I hope I would have been a bit more diplomatic about it. Whether I would have or not, I do agree with Bendis when he responded, “this will sound harsh but you’re probably not a writer. writer’s writer every day. it’s ok, not everyone is. but if you consider yourself one, get off your ass and get back to work!! write about why you haven’t been writing . anything. just write. ”
Now, Bendis begins with the warning that his comment might sound harsh. Then he goes on to point out that writers write. And he is correct. Sure, there are times when what we write is nothing but crap. There are days when many of us just stare at the display or paper and nothing comes. But we keep trying and we look for inspiration. We don’t — or at least we shouldn’t — just sit there and contemplate our navels and accept the fact that the words aren’t coming. We change projects. We blog. We do free-writing. Or we just push through.
I’ll admit, I don’t know what the original commenter’s situation might be. But what floored me were the comments attacking Bendis and others who came to his support. What was basically a “get up off your butt and pull up your big boy pants and get to work” comment became fodder for a flame war. Proving once again why so many authors are starting to step back from a lot of social media. It is also an example of how you have to ask yourself if you really need to hit that “enter” button. That is certainly true if you are responding to the negative comments. What are the potential benefits to responding and how do they stack up against the probable detrimental effects of continuing the debate?
In other words, do you have the time to continue with the conversation or would you be better off doing exactly what you just told the wannabe writer to do — write?
On a happier note, I came across two links this week that are full of inspiration. At least they are if your mind is as warped as mine is. The first is a list of “The 35 Most Hauntingly Beautiful Abandoned Ruins on the Planet.” Just looking at some of the photos had flashes of storylines dancing in my head. The shot of the Ryugyong Hotel in North Korea had me thinking about a space ship, long dormant, suddenly coming to life and breaking free through the surface of the planet. What would cause it to suddenly come back online? What about the occupants of the ship when it first arrived here? Were they, or their descendants, still alive and onboard or had they died off? Perhaps they had left the ship before it was buried under all those tons of earth and had set up an enclave somewhere. So many questions and so many places a plot to happen.
The shot of Six Flags New Jazz Land instantly brought to mind a zombie story. Do zombies ride roller coasters? Instead of cotton candy, do they eat spun brains on a stick? (Okay, you knew I was weird)
Each and every one of those images, especially the ones from places I have actually been to, could be the basis of a story or a setting in a novel. Each one spoke to me, some louder than others. And, yes, at least one will make it into an upcoming work.
The next site that offered inspiration comes from io9: 9 Ruined Cities That Remain a Mystery To This Day. As with the previous link, I’ve been to a couple of the locations listed. But to sit in the comfort of my living room, looking at the pictures, I find myself marveling at the people and civilizations that are no longer here. What were their lives like? What caused them to abandon their cities? Was it the same thing as our historians and archaeologists have surmised or something different? How can I take those images and adapt them to a future history story or an alternate history story? What if I set it on another planet?
So, to go back to the original link and the question posed, if you are a writer and are having trouble writing, look for inspiration. Once you find it, then sit your butt down in the chair and write. It doesn’t have to be every day — although that helps. It does need to be regular. It needs to become a habit. Writers write. It is our profession and avocation.
What do you do to find inspiration?