Thursday, February 5, 2015

Sick Weekend Two: The Danger of Silence

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Hey All,

I'm sick again. Fortunately it's not as painful as the sickness that I had in December, but battling a sore throat and mild fever while doing schoolwork and writing this blog. But I feel the need to write it, to keep up with my earlier resolution to blog once a week. My problem was that I hit the dreaded sensation that  every writer must get in their lifetime: a Block.

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When I was a teenager, I read books about writer's block. I read comics about writer's block, including Neil Gaiman's "Calliope" which is a story that has since become a cliche in popular culture regarding writers interacting with muses. When I read these stories, I laughed; the idea of not being able to write a word seemed to be an inherent character deficit that could be corrected.

Now that I'm in a slump myself, I feel some sympathy for some of the fictional writers that suffer blocks. Not the one in "Calliope" though; he gave all writers a bad name in terms of what he does to the titular muse. I feel sympathy for Mike Noonan in Bag of Bones, however, because he stops writing due to external stresses, namely his wife dying in the novel's opening pages. Like him, the pressure to do well and stay healthy has affected how I view the words. Sometimes it feels like I'm stepping from one slipper stone to another across a rapidly moving river whose current has destroyed others.

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Traditionally "writer's block" refers to a writer not having any ideas, at least according to popular culture, or having stale ideas that quickly fall apart on the written page. In most cases the blocks happened after the writer had hit success with one novel, and had shut down shortly afterward. The solution to such a situation, which Joanne Harris did implement in real life, was have another book ready for publication. In her case she nearly suffered a block after Chocolat became a success but had already written Blackberry Wine, her next novel that delved into writer's block, the fantastique nature of the French countryside as well as tourist threats. I was planning to do the same thing with Carousel, since I have two novel rough drafts on queue, but stress and business school interfered with my plans. My next long work probably won't happen for a while, not until I finish some short stories.

For those wondering, I don't agree with how Jay the protagonist was portrayed during his block in Blackberry Wine; he got a block because he based his first successful novel on real life, and the success drove him to write "trashy" science fiction for ten years. Call me a fan of the former pulp writers like Ray Bradbury, but there is nothing shameful about writing about aliens as opposed to "literary" fiction. Also, I'm suspicious about basing entire novels on real life, since that can lead to hurt feelings and lawsuits. Jay could have easily started traveling with the money and freedom that he earned, to find more adventures to put into his books. For those wondering about his girlfriend Kerry, it's never a good idea to volunteer to be a blocked writer's muse and hope to encourage good works out of him or her. You will just end up frustrated and disillusioned. Better to brainstorm and encourage, rather than to cut their "trashy" works.

Currently I'm working to get out of my slump and back into the field, while searching for jobs, managing home duties and keeping up in schoolwork. I'm optimistic because this week I actually finished a decent tale for a friend's birthday, the first breath of life into this school year. And with luck, 2015 will mean that I make my goals with aplomb again. Wish me luck!

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1 comment:

Susan Sipal said...

Wishing you the best of luck, Priya. I'm so sorry you've hit a slump. Keep going with life and those experiences will eventually feed your writing!