Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Writer's Block

I just found this in the Xmas 1995 edition of Ansible...

... the infallible Robert Sheckley cure for writers' block. He said he tried a drastic exercise to get things flowing again (an enema for the muse, as Nick Lowe liked to say): making himself type 5000 words a day, any words so long as he met the quota, grimly bashing out stuff like ... Oh words, where are you now that I need you? Come quickly to my fingertips and release me from this horror, horror, horror ... O God, I am losing my mind, mind, mind ... But wait, is it possible, yes, here it is, the end of the page coming up, O welcome kindly end of page....

After days and days of this, Sheckley made the great discovery that it was now actually easier to write a story than go on suffering. And so he did, quite quickly and happily. I have passed on this sure-fire advice to several aspiring authors who believe there is a Closely Guarded Secret to it all, but none of them ever thanked me. (Incidentally, it was Robert Silverberg who, when once asked if he'd ever had writers' block, said: 'Yes -- it was the worst ten minutes of my life.') [3/93]

Setting yourself a word target, say a Greene a day, is a very useful way of making progress, even if it is, as James Swallow says, like grinding your teeth down on a concrete block. If procrastination is more your game then you can certainly do worse than work way through the entire Ansible back catalogue - interesting, fun, rewarding and very, very time consuming.

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