It has now been three months and two days since I’ve written a single word on Broken Dreams, the sequel to The Red Kimono. And other than a few blog posts and a few haiku, I’ve written nothing to speak of.
Granted, the last few months have been hectic, frenetic and just a little chaotic with book signings, presentations, fulfilling miscellaneous obligations AND moving to Dallas in anticipation of the birth of my first grandchild. Still, I have to place the real blame on the creature we all know as Writer’s Block. How do I know this? Because in the week following Thanksgiving, even though I’m all settled into my new home and have few responsibilities to fulfill other than waiting by the phone for news that my daughter-in-law has gone into labor, I haven’t written anything.
So, I’ve decided to interview this unwelcome visitor who is no stranger to me, this menace to the writer’s world. Perhaps once I get to know him better, I can send him on his way. Or, perhaps he’ll tire of my questions and will decide to go bother another writer.
JAN: Where did you come from?
WB: I come from a land called Excuses. I don’t dwell long in the land of my birth. Instead, I prefer to travel around in search of opportunities to spread the culture of Excuses. Lucky for me, I find plenty of opportunity.
JAN: How do you choose where to visit?
WB: The places I’m most tempted to visit begin with a little down time, though I don’t invite myself in too quickly. First I have to make sure the environment is conducive to settling in for awhile. Down time must lead to more down time, when a writer may reason to herself that she’s due a bit of a break. Often this comes after the publication of a book, some sort of life change or crisis. Or, there’s the writer who says she needs to market that new book, and she fills her time perusing the Internet for opportunities, falling prey to social networking, blogging. You know, all that “necessary stuff” that really isn’t all that necessary. But it certainly fuels my desire to stay. Meanwhile, I settle into the lovely, imagination-filled lounge of the writer’s brain. In the beginning, it’s such a bountiful place–plenty for me to feast on. The best seat in the house is right across from Muse, who stares out the window of the writer’s eyes, daydreaming, while I munch on the assortment of creative tidbits on the table before me. What a shame those sumptuous morsels of prose will never be written on paper. Alas, before the poor, unfocused Muse realizes it, I’ve devoured it all. My belly full and the creative table cleared, poor Muse will have to leave to find another writer, or risk starving to death.
JAN: Does Muse ever win the battle with you?
WB: Well, of course, that depends on the writer. Muse may inspire to write, even offer ideas. If the writer listens to Muse, makes any attempt at all to put words on paper, then Muse has won. But there are so many more ways for me to win. If Muse’s inspiration is ignored, left to rot, devoured by me or worse, forgotten before ever being brought to life on paper, I, Writer’s Block, have won the battle.
JAN: Would you mind telling me how to send you away?
WB: (Laughing) Aren’t we a little naïve? Do you really think I would tell you how to get rid of me? Yours has been quite a feast these last several months. So many ideas you’ve had for your sequel to The Red Kimono. And weren’t you halfway finished with that other book, Mo’s Shadow? How long since you’ve added a single word to Mo’s story? Oh, let’s see. And what about that book, Life, Haiku by Haiku that you said would be published by December? I must say, I’ve put on a few pounds, feasting on your little smorgasbord. But now, the table’s spread is looking rather sparse. I find I must scrounge for morsels to eat. And Muse? Well, he’s looking a little gaunt, isn’t he? So no, I will not tell you how to send me on my way. If you can’t figure that out on your own, well then. I’d say my mission is almost complete.
I pause during the interview to think about his last answer. Seconds, then minutes pass. I shudder as Mr. Block casually picks at his teeth. Hardly noticeable when he first arrived, now, he’s a huge, dark shadow hovering over me. And my poor little Muse trembles in the corner, much smaller and weaker than I’ve seen him before.
Then, it hits me. I realize that Muse and Writer’s Block cannot live together for long. If I allow Writer’s Block to stay, Muse will leave . . . or die.
JAN: What if I feed Muse? What if I don’t allow his morsels of creativity to remain on the table for you to gorge yourself upon? What if instead, I put them straight to paper? There’d be nothing to feed you, and . . . you’d be on your way.
He does not answer me, but I see fear flash in his eyes.
JAN: Your silence is answer enough. But before you go, I have one more question for you.
WB: (In an already noticeably weakened voice.) What is it?
JAN: In my writing life, I’ve learned that characters should be three-dimensional–that nobody is all good or all bad. Pardon my frankness, but I see no redeeming qualities in you, Mr. Block. Nothing good at all. Do you care to rebut this opinion?
WB: (He looks away, silent for a long moment, appearing to struggle for an answer.) Once I have visited a writer, especially if I have over-stayed my welcome, she will do everything possible to prevent my return. So, doesn’t my existence alone, force a writer to focus on her Muse, if for no other reason than to prevent my return? So, you see, I do have a redeeming quality. What power I have. So effective am I that you will never want me to return. (He snickers.) But know that I will, upon hearing the language of my homeland, Excuses, upon seeing the down time that follows.
The interview ends, and I decide it was quite enlightening for me. You, however, may now see the breadth of my distraction — that I actually interviewed a creature called Writer’s Block. But you know me and my love of interviewing my characters. So, when a very dear friend who is a writer (as well as a psychologist) suggested this exercise, I couldn’t resist.
Best of all, this is the first smile I’ve seen from Muse in a long, long time.