Writing When You Don't Want to Write

Last week I awoke, confused, naked, my memory foggy and disjointed. I fell from a glass canister, essentially decanted onto the cold, unforgiving concrete of a stark laboratory. Not knowing what to do, I managed to fashion a handheld canister torch and a broken bit of glassware into weapons.

On the stairs out I found creatures half shark, half nightmare, and half elder being. (That isn't too many halves when you allow for non-euclidean elder magic). Hacking and cutting, wading through puss and ichor, I finally fought my way to the cleansing light of the noonday sun. Only then, when I finally drank the first deep draughts of free air, did I find myself facing... myself. I stared at me. Me stared back. Then we both struck.

I don't know who survived. I hold the memories of both in my mind. Am I the fell clone or did I kill him in that unblinking sun? I don' t know. I know something more important, though.

Never leave spare genetic matter around Wymore's house, no matter how badly you have to use the restroom.


I hear a lot about writer's block. I hear about it at conventions and on the internet. Advice and tips and commiseration. I know it's a problem for a lot of people. I can't speak to what it's like to be other people (except as noted, above). So I want to be careful not to say that I don't believe in writer's block. But I can tell you what it means for me.

Writer's block is me not wanting to write.

It can take a lot of forms. Wanting to play a computer game. Wanting to sit down and read for an hour. Wanting to nap. Avoidance and dodging and procrastination. Sometimes I'd rather clean the house than actually write, and I hate cleaning the house.

Heinlein said something along the lines of: he writes because the only thing worse that writing is not writing.

The last time I really had "writer's block" was while working on a paper in high school. It wasn't a real matter of being blocked. It was a matter of wanting to do anything other that assignment. That time I found my solution. If I put on Beethoven and just forced myself to write, I always find the writer's block goes away in about fifteen minutes. I don't know if that's because Beethoven is particularly inspiring, or if it's because I know that if can make myself stop needing it, I can put on something that I like more.

If I had to give advice to someone earlier in their career than myself, <insert obligatory joke about my "career" here>, then it would be to try Nano this month, or next year, since this advice is probably too late to save 2015. I'm talking about National Novel Writing Month.

I don't participate myself, but I have in the past. I did it on two consecutive years. Each time I set a goal of hitting 100,000 words instead of the standard of 50k. Each time I petered out around Thanksgiving with 70-something thousand. And then, my writer's group submissions covered for the rest of the year, I stopped writing until January.

I produced one novel that is probably beyond redemption and one that I have in submission right now. But a more important thing happened. I showed myself that I have the discipline to sit down and write three thousand words a day. They might not be good, but "good" isn't the point of Nano. Nano is about learning discipline.

You go to work every day. You don't whine and say you have "data entry block." You don't beg off because you don't feel it. You do the job because that's your job. Or you get fired. Every day. That's what it means to be a productive member of society.

You might say, "But Bob. You're brilliant and handsome and hyper-intelligent." I get that a lot. You might go on to say, "I work shelving groceries" or balancing spread sheets, or selling leads, or whatever you do. "That isn't creative work," you say. "That's different."

I'd say talk to the professional writer's out there. Your Brandon Sandersons and your Kevin J. Andersons and your Jim Butchers. The guys that really show us what it means to be a working writer. Do you think they ever just "don't feel like writing"? I'd submit that they probably feel like that every day. You know what they don't do?

They don't care.

They sit down. And they hammer out the words, or they do the painful edit, or they go to that one last signing when they don't think they can possibly smile at one more fan. They do it because it's their job to do it, and they love their job. They will do anything to make sure we don't fire them, because they know they work for us.

Or they write a blog about writer's block. You know. Whatever.