A (writer) friend of mine recently posted an entry in his blog asserting that “writers are lying bags of cat puke” when they claim writing is hard. I had to respectfully beg to differ. I have been trying to write largely without success for about 3/4 of my life. Oh, I can write reasonable well as far as quality is concerned. That is, if you measured my ability to write based on the opinions of those who read and enjoy my work, I am a ‘good’ writer. The problem is that aside from a handful of short stories (and a ‘novelette’ I wrote when I was 15 or 16 and saved on a 5 inch floppy-which was subsequently accidentally thrown out by my dad on a cleaning binge), I have never finished anything.
I’ve told myself (and my friends) that I have had a really bad case of writer’s block for the past couple of years…which is kind of true. But it’s really just a different form of the same problem that has plagued my writing my whole life. Back then, I seem to remember it as losing interest. Now, it’s more like a feeling of being overwhelmed, under-inspired, and…well, obsessive. And before you think “All writers go through that…yada yada. ” I’m not sure.
I have OCD. Have all my life. My childhood was fine in terms of my life and family itself, but from about 7 or 8 on, (in retrospect) I can remember suffering with symptoms of this… Anxiety, intrusive thoughts, guilt… The point is, NOW I seem to feel the strain of that when I try to write. Mostly, I get so bogged down with accuracy of details that I can’t get anywhere with the story. What is the weather like in such and such state? What is the topography? Is this how a police department is set up? What is an NA retreat like? Is this realistic… etc, etc, etc, ad nauseam…. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where the normal writers block ends and the OCD begins…
I have had three sentences in my head for two days. I want to write a story, and so I figured I can even narrow the scope of the story and instead of going for the full Oriental Express mystery theme, I can start with just one scene. ONE. And I can’t get past those three sentences. What order they go in, what do I write next, how do I want to say it, what are the write words? (Look up a word in the thesaurus every other sentence to see if I can find a better one…)
Then there is what I would probably refer to as “Stephen King syndrome.” It’s the writer’s version of that Southpark episode where Butters is looking to hatch an evil plan only to be told over and over again by his luke – evil sidekick, “SIMPSONS DID IT” already! IOW, what the hell could I possibly have to say on any subject related to horror or suspense fiction (my preferred bailiwick) that Stephen King has not already said (and five hundred times better than I ever could.) I once even had an idea for a novel about a door in the middle of the woods that went to … “someplace else.” And then I read The Dark Towers series. Basically his opus, The Dark Tower spans 7 books currently and also manages to tie in about half of his other previous works in some fashion. IMHO, sheer genius.
But I mean, as far as basic plot goes, is there anything that hasn’t been done? I have in fact heard it said that everything HAS been done before and the only thing a new writer can do is rehash old stories, or “re-tell them in a new and interesting way” (if you want to be generous.) To an extent, I suppose that is true… but then, as a fan of Japanese film and anime, I can honestly say, those people come up with new and interesting and STRANGE shit all the time, and they can use juxtaposition like nobody’s business…
Also, it is so easy, as I told another friend of mine the other day, to get home and get ‘interested’ in doing other things. There are so many things around the house that I need to do. They don’t always get done either, but I’ll bet you I do those things before I try to sit and write. It’s easier to sit and play on the computer, watch a movie, play with the baby… All of that is easier than trying to push past this block. Maybe I should take a notebook somewhere away from all the ‘distractions.’ But there are other things I’d rather do. And not enough time in the day. I am sleep deprived (thank you, baby girl.) And these all sound like crappy excuses.
So where does this leave me? Well, I guess I have no choice. If I want to write, I have to keep trying to write. I don’t know what else to do. It’s upsetting to want to write and actually not be able to. It’s frustrating as all hell. I am jealous of my friends’ success. So, I’m not really a ‘lying bag of cat puke’ (see Rance’s blog, The Action P(r)ose, on my blogroll.) I’m really just an ineffectual, frustrated, sleep-deprived, self-critical, obsessive…bag of cat puke.
(oh yeah, add that to the list of shit to do around the house- clean up cat puke.)