September 03, 2014

Feeling blocked?

At the post-reading question-and-answer at last year’s Pint of Bitter Murder at the Park Theatre, Gail Bowen and I were asked if we ever experienced writer’s block. Or perhaps it was “suffered from” the aforementioned condition. The questioner had a plaintive tone in her voice––or at least I think she did, since her question, one of many good ones that afternoon, lived a kind of half-life with me. I can remember the question. I just can’t quite remember my answer. It may have had something to do with not experiencing writer’s block, which was unhelpful of me. But then I’m never sure what others mean by “writer’s block.” I’ve always assumed it to be the almost pathological inability to produce a word, sentence or paragraph for days, weeks, months or years––by which time the writer, so-called, should seek another vocation or avocation. Moments of dullness in front of the computer, the inability to come up with a fresh thought or the perfectly appropriate word or phrase, the feeling of gawwwwd, do I really have to do this this morning is not writer’s block any more than moments of inattention and general funk driving a taxi is taxi driver’s block. Writer’s block, if that’s what this is, is perfectly normal––probably little more than the eager brain, wanting to wander, rebelling at the need to concentrate, or the vital body, wanting to roam, rebelling at the need to sit still. All the usual nostrums apply: get up, walk around, take a shower, or just fuhgeddaboudit for the day. Are you on a deadline? Probably not. If you are, then writer’s block has an astonishing way of vanishing. And here’s proof: Thin Air publicist Bruce Symaka asked if I would contribute to this year’s Thin Air blog. Yes, I said, though I didn’t have a blessed idea what I would write about. But I had a deadline––Labour Day. And though it is now, as I write, Labour Day Eve, and still don’t have a single bloody idea what the hell I’m going to write about (writer’s block!), I have a deadline. And that concentrates the mind wonderfully.

C.C. Benison’s latest novel, Ten Lords A-Leaping, arrives in paperback November 4.

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