Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Mind Games

After WFC, I'm having a hard time geting back into my maybe-a-novel-maybe-not. Continuity has been lost, momentum broken, inspiration squashed. When I'm having trouble working, the best cure is always to work -- a vicious circle. So I play mind games with myself. The current one goes: "Kress, you only have to do five hundred words today. That's two skimpy pages. Anybody can write two skimpy pages, especially if you know you're going to rewrite it anyway, and if you do, you're free! Free!" This game often works. Just as often, after 500 words I'll continue on.

Here's another mind game I use: "Kress, you're sitting in that chair until you have one page. It doesn't matter if you get hungry or bladder-troubled or carried off in the Rapture -- tell God you can't go until you've done one page." This works, too, especially if one is drinking coffee.

Gene Wolfe's mind game when he's stuck: No words until he starts working again. No books, no newspapers, no radio or TV, no conversation (Gene has a very understanding wife). No words off the page until a respectable number are on the page. He says the longest he's ever gone like this is four days (FOUR DAYS??!!)

For all of these word-production techniques, blogging doesn't count. Back to work now.

5 comments:

bluesman miike Lindner said...

Somebody (Poul Anderson?) used this technique: since nothing is more unsettling to a writer than a blank page, =fill it!= Names of flowers, breeds of dogs, old college friends. Doesn't matter. Your subconscious will say, "You're really determined about this aren't you?", and will work with you again. The mental logjam will break, and the prose will start flowing.

As a lyricist, I don't have to put in the prolonged mental effort a novel (or even a short story) demands, but must admit I need be on the far-side of desperation to pick up the rhyming dictionary. After all, Homer didn't use one, Dylan finds them bizarre and unnatural, and if you're not gonna try to write like the best, why bother at all? (=Heavily= ironic comments occur to me here, but I will keep them to myself...)

The rock musician Nick Cave sez writer's block is a prolonged fit of self-doubt. I don't know about that, but I will suggest that while it's impossible for a creative to lose his or her =talent=, it =is= possible to lose =inspiration=. Look at my hero Bob Dylan. After 1967's JOHN WESLEY HARDING, is put out a nice series of albums. But it took his marriage-on=the=rocks in 1975 to be inspired again to write the masterpiece BLOOD ON THE TRACKS. I wonder if he thinks it was worth it...

karen wester newton said...

Connie Willis says she likes to work in coffee shops because then she can reward herself for work, e.g., a latte if she finishes x number of words/pages.

In line with the previous comment, I had a drawing teacher who, if you didn't start drawing, would take your paper, throw it on the floor and step on it. Then he would put the dirty piece of paper on your drawing board and say, "There, now it's not perfect, so you don't have to worry about ruining it."

Kinda hard to do with a computer.

bluesman miike Lindner said...

That's nice, Karen. I like that idea big mucho plenty. But could it work in writing? Never mind a computer. Just writing?

Nancy Kress said...

I don't want to write on a dirty piece of paper!

Icarus said...

Billy Joel said somewhere or other that when e has writer's block he'll put on his most "writerly" ("composerly?") jacket and go to a coffee shop or cafe and basically try to look the part. I guess the thinking is that he can maybe convince himself that he really is a writer, and should therefore be able to just . . . write.

Of course, he hasn't had a new album since the mid '90s, so he may not be the best example . . .