Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Writer's block? We don't need no stinking writer's block!

There are a few things I get asked a lot when people find out I write books. Probably the most common question is, "Are you making any money?"

The answer, of course, is "Yes." The minute I sell one book I'm making money. A better question would be, "How much money are you making?", but most people are too classy to bring themselves to ask it.

And that's good, because I wouldn't answer anyway. At least, not until I'm making a shitload of money.

Probably the second-most common question I hear is, "Where do you get your ideas?"

That one's a little tougher, because in most cases, it's not the sort of question I can answer with one word, or even one sentence. Most of my plot ideas come from a mish-mash of sources, some of which I don't even understand.

Sometimes it's a song lyric that strikes me and gets my imagination racing. Sometimes it's a real-life situation, although when that happens, my story usually strays far from the actual situation that inspired it. Sometimes it's a dream, and I know that sounds silly, but I've gotten more than one idea for a kick-ass story that just popped into my head in the middle of the night.

Most often, though, the honest answer is, "I have no idea." A hint of a thread of an plot takes hold inside my head and begins to grow, like a plant. Or a cancer. In most cases, the idea has to simmer for awhile before I do anything with it. I mulled over the initial idea for my Derringer Award-nominated story, "Independence Day," for months - over an entire winter, as I recall - before I ever wrote a word on it.

But the question I really wanted to talk about today is the one that I would estimate I get third-most often: "Do you ever get writer's block?"

Easy answer: No, because I don't believe writer's block exists. Bestselling author Vincent Zandri wrote an outstanding blog post that included this subject a couple of weeks ago, one which I agree with wholeheartedly.

The gist of that blog post is this: If you're serious about selling your work, writing is a job. It's a fun job, to be sure, and it's a job where you can make your own hours and work in your underwear and take as many breaks as you want, but at the end of the day it's still a job.

And if you approach it as a job, you begin to realize that what many people view as "writer's block" is really nothing more than either laziness or a reluctance to put in the time at work. I suppose you could consider those two things to be one and the same.

Writing fiction is the act of stringing words together in entertaining ways while telling a story, so an unwillingness to put time in at the keyboard is the kiss of death if you consider yourself a writer. There are days when the words flow with an almost ridiculous ease, and there are other days when writing anything that makes even a minimal amount of sense is like pulling teeth, but at the end of the day, under either condition you need to sit at the keyboard and do your job.

As Vincent Zandri says, "If you're a writer your job is to show up at work every day and write...If your dad was a lawyer, did he ever get lawyer's block? If your mom was a nurse, did you ever hear her complain, 'I've had absolutely nothing to nurse about for the last six months'?"

That answer is perfect. Of course, it's also kind of long-winded to give to someone who really doesn't care that much, anyway. So most of the time when I'm asked the question about writer's block, I sort of mumble my way through an answer, saying something about working hard and continuing to write my way through it when it happens.

Okay, maybe I'm being just slightly less than honest, but, hey, I can only stay on break for so long; I've gotta get back to work!

1 comment:

Dani said...

Interesting post...

Especially because I have always thought I had "writer's block" and maybe I just wasn't taking the time to do the writing. I have a few stories that I have started writing, but never finished. And I think that is because I didn't know the ending. Maybe I should give all those stories another shot.