Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Think of it as work

A terrible, terrible writer's block has happened. It’s not your normal walnut-sized block, which you can prod and push with your finger and work around. Usually, at least my instinct to write puerile rubbish is readily available, and no walnut-sized critters can stop that. Nonsense, no-sense, and embarrassing pap – it’s there. On tap. Pours out at will, and then I can whittle and friends and Amit can edit and ‘suggest changes’ till a work of at least some honesty comes out. This time, there's no go. This particular block is – at my estimation – about 18 feet high and 12 feet wide. It’s slate-grey and hard and made up of tough materials like laziness and a good measure of greyhazystuff - a material which fills my mind with moss-like nothingness. It has not been spotted in a long time, but our records show that it has been known to exist.

Logically, this would be the time to take a tiny break. But because deadlines exist in a writer’s world just as they do elsewhere in civilized society, one feels guilty. And that’s when one begins to think of all forms of frittery as Work – as in, this Work will inspire me to get back to real work type of 'work'. Want to read a P D James? Well, I am a writer. So reading = work? Want to chat with a friend instead of struggling against the dark block? Hell-llo, I am a stressed out, work-from-home mom, surely talking to a friend, saving myself a therapist's fee and clearing my head for Writerly Thoughts is helpful? Want to spend my day looking at Doonesbury, Berke Breathed, Wondermark and the Oatmeal? Now isn't that a gesture of solidarity with these masters of sarcasm and irony, and isn’t reading good writing a useful thing in itself? Want to spend a day gazing at people's narcissistic outpourings on fb? Come now, the ability to laugh at human folly is No. 1 important quality in writers. Yes? Want to cheat on diet a bit and eat rubbish? Two threptin biscuits with a giant mug of tea instead of a fruit – surely, eating badly is a writer’s right? Hey, the world is full of idea-triggers. Who knows where my next one will come from?

As a writer, you’re supposed to dip your pen in the inkwell of life (finally, a metaphor – even a cheap one – remember what I said about rubbish on tap?). So practically anything can be Thought of as Work. Even – and especially – wasting time on the net, thinking up clever fb posts, reading recipes, chatting online and writing a blog post after so long (which, compared to fb status msgs, seems like real literature). Into this category fall expensive holidays (communing with nature and the swimming pool?) or shopping (people watching?) and sitting on the sofa eating chips, watching Seinfeld.

A writer's work should – ideally – be all about answering email interviews, helping design the book's cover, selecting and rejecting artworks with a sweet, condescending smile, signing royalty receipts and 10-page contracts, attending book readings, being gazed at worshipfully and posing for pictures which are a mix of youthful innocence + the self-assurance of age. What is this nonsense about writing for three-hours-a-day, I say. That is so frickin' uncool - definitely not what I paid my entrance fee to the mediocre-and-underpaid-writers-club for.