I’ve heard many writers over the years claim that sitting in front of the blank page is the most daunting thing in their lives. This has never been the case for me. I’ve always viewed the blank page as the ultimate freedom. When I sit down to write, I’m never more free, because at that point, on that blank page, I can do anything I want. I can create a virus that kills an entire populous in the first act without the cops showing up to arrest me.
I’m not here to castigate my fellow authors (or plan Armageddon NSA), I just believe writers often make their job harder by building a brick wall before laying a foundation. Being daunted by the act of creation is really easy when you let the act rule your brain. When writers let writing get in the way of telling a story, then, in my opinion, you embrace defeat.
I have mentioned a comedy writer I met near the end of his life who lived near me. The first time I went inside his apartment, I saw a sign that read, “Stop writing and tell the fucking story.” This man had worked on many television and movie projects that I won’t get into, but his resume was long. He’d worked for years in Hollywood and pictures of him with a long list of the greatest comedy writers of all time hung everywhere; so he had chops. I have recreated this sign and hung it on the wall in my office.
The thing is, we writers are often our own worst enemies. We bang our heads against the wall and claim writer’s block. Simply put, we take the easy road by saying we can’t, then reciting a list of reasons why. Writing isn’t for the faint of heart. It is for those who are courageous and creative, willing to live a solitary and reclusive life of working on our own. We are the ultimate self-starters. I’m not saying that we all must move to a remote island somewhere and drink Scotch and write one sentence a day until we die with livers that won’t fit inside a large size freezer bag. I’m just saying that we need to live with the fact that writing is a solitary act. You may share your work with whomever you like, but the act itself is something you do alone.
I’m married. My wife and I love to travel, to spend time together, but she knows that when I’m working, she might as well talk to a wall. She has walked into my office and told me something only to have me look at her blindly the next day with no recollection of the event. After all these years, she just waits. Even if I’m not writing, but deeply in thought about a project, she knows I still won’t remember. I make time to take my wife and pooch to Lake Tahoe and spend time with them because it’s only fair. I split much of my time between making money at my regular job and writing. It doesn’t allow much time for relaxation, or sleep. I may get six hours a day, if I’m lucky, but even that is often broken when I’m working on something new. I have to make time for others in my life.
Over the years, I’ve learned not to write at night because I won’t sleep. The engine that is writing is a perpetual engine. It runs even when we leave the word processor behind. If writers look at the blank page as the fuel that starts that engine, then writer’s block degrades and dissolves like aspirin in Scotch. Enjoy your craft, because very few people can do what we do.