For this year’s kickoff, my company gifted all employees with a subscription to MasterClass — the place where you can listen to your idols talk about their areas of expertise. I’d seen all the ads; so far, the classes are well produced and the ones I’ve watched are great.
Walter Mosley, who’s written over sixty novels, says he writes every day; three hours every morning. His class is full of gold and hard won advice.
But what if you are blocked? What if you have too many ideas, too much self doubt, the rent is due, you’ve just had a fight with your spouse or many other things that you can blame on why you aren’t writing?
Steven Pressfield says writer’s block is resistance in his excellent book “The War of Art”
Great. Now we have a name for it. How can you overcome your resistance?
I’ve had my share of staring at a blank screen or my case, so much resistance that I don’t even open up my application of choice. (usually Scrivener)
I spin the wheel of writer’s excuses and justify my actions. The idea sucks. My words are shit. I’m too old. I’m too stupid. I’m too old and stupid.
I’m in the dangerously blocked zone.
But over time, I’ve found a narrow path out of the treacherous forest of resistance.
Instead of writing, I write about the writing. I tell myself the story of what I want to write.
And it works.
It’s like this. Imagine I have an idea for a story about a knight outside a castle. I might write a first line like this:
“The handsome prince swung his massive sword at the door and knocked it off the hinges.”
Awful, putrid and ready for cremation.
I usually recognize my lack of brilliance and start over. I’d retype the line, move a couple of words, read it over in my mind and then erase it again.
Then I remember the cat litter needs cleaning.
Neil Gaiman says the first draft is about telling yourself the story and doesn’t count. Great advice if you can get to the first draft. Many people can’t.
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