Friday, September 12, 2008

The Curse of Writer's Block

... when creative blockage sets in, the blank page before you grows to the size of a tablecloth. The grey laptop screen seems to hum with malignity. You feel you have nothing of interest or amusement to impart to the world. Words refuse to shift – as they always have done hitherto – from the vast lexicon in your memory to the sentences half-forming in your brain. You can't for the life of you remember why your character X has fetched up in a Wyoming mining town when, according to the plot, she should be falling in love with her tutor in Cambridge. You have not the faintest clue how to begin the next chapter.
John Walsh explores the phenomena known as "writer's block" in the Independent today, following British poet laureate Andrew Motion's admission yesterday that his own words dried up.

Along the way he finds that :
Some of the history's most famous, and prodigiously fluent, authors suffered temporary cessations of text: Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Joseph Conrad, Katherine Mansfield.
Perhaps Joseph Roth's story is the most remarkable :

(His) Depression-era novel, Call It Sleep, was written in 1934. Roth tried a second novel without success, and gave up writing to work as a firefighter,
teacher and labourer. After his book was rediscovered by readers in the 1960s,
he resumed writing and, at 73, began a series of novels called Mercy Of A Rude
Stream. The first, A Star Shines Over Morris Park, came out in 1994, an amazing 60 years after its predecessor.
There are of course those authors who deny that there is such a thing, and I must say I like Will Self's attitude :

I have never experienced writer's block. Writing is a muscular action and, like any other, all you need to do is exercise the muscles. I don't even think of it as writing – it's typing.


Anonymous said...

Its not Philip but Henry Roth who wrote Call it Sleep..


Anonymous said...

That's not writer's block - that's a huge constipation! (sounds like a title on this year's Booker list dunnit, "The Huge Constipation")...

Anonymous said...

I hate Will Self now - smug, pompous ass. 'I have never experienced writer's block'. Yeah, right. As for me, I don't suffer from it either - but ah, writer's constipation - man, oh man - that's something chronic with me. Sigh. Anonymous at 8:23, what a lovely term - writer's constipation.

Anonymous said...

Some writers SHOULD suffer from writers' block and stop writing - eg Dan Brown...

Anonymous said...

Is Will Self very self-obsessed



Anonymous said...

Will Self is right, it's typing. I think after a while, it just becomes typing. You can write any old thing, and people just read it. I've never had "writer's block", Joseph has never had writer's block, he just had a novel that didn't sell and decided to do something else before he had to eat his manuscript to survive. That's not writer's block, that's survival.

How can you forget how to write? it would be like forgetting how to walk, or how to read.