Thursday, January 17, 2013

Doonesbury on Writer's Block

Do you all read the “Doonesbury” comic? If so, you saw last week’s sequence of strips about writer’s block. If not, start here and read them Monday through Saturday:


In case you’re not familiar with the current storylines, Jeff has a fantasy alter ego called the Red Rascal, a Zorro-like masked rider who fights for freedom in Afghanistan. Against all expectation, the book he’s written in his Rascal persona becomes a bestseller. Unfortunately, like many a nouveau-rich celebrity, Jeff squanders his income from the “memoir” as well his lavish advance for the sequel. When he asks to move back in with his parents, they agree on condition that he fulfill his contract for the second book. Part of the agreement, as his mother explains to his slacker buddy, mandates that he spend “three solid hours” writing every morning.

Almost any writer will laugh in recognition, if somewhat uneasily, at Jeff’s predicament. How often does our “process” involve staring vacantly into space (or sleeping on a plot problem)? Or do we sometimes tell ourselves that to evade facing the blank screen? I can uncomfortably identify with the dread of seeing my words just hang there “lifelessly” in all their flatness. And with the recent farewell to my day job, I’m trying to embrace the discipline of committing myself to fixed hours of concentrated writing (for me it’s a minimum of two hours or 1000 words, whichever comes first). Only too rarely does an inspired phrase (comparable to the genius of “a freakin’ Hemingwad”) spontaneously leap from my brain.

The same plotline continues Monday and Tuesday of this week. I especially like Monday’s dialogue. Jeff asks his father, a journalist, “What do you do when you have nothing to say?” Answer: “I say it anyway. . . . Four times a day.”

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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