Thursday, April 13, 2017

What Stops Me Writing

This is an entry for the Thanet Creative Writers Writers Writing Competition which this week has the topic:

What Stops Me Writing

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was famously interrupted by a visitor from Porlock while writing the poem Kubla Khan and lost the thread. We should all be so lucky as to get that far before being distracted. He would have found the twenty-first century a terrible time to write, and not just because opium is now illegal[1].

Interruptions however are not my personal Achilles heel. As I said in What Gets Me Writing; or I am Easily Distract... “Is all this over-analysis of kid’s cartoons a distraction? Well yes. It’s also what gets me writing.” Kid’s cartoons, or Coleridge poems, or mummies and hieroglyphs or, (checks open tabs on the web browser) a 1908 “true” account of a visit into the Hollow Earth[2]. It all goes into the pot.

My usual method is to write, or more properly type, in bursts of 100-300 words after which I pause to consider the next section. I have distraction built into my writing process. In part this is because my ideas don’t always come linearly. I’ll be nicely describing a room, blue curtains, comfy leather armchair under a reading light, and a neat garden out the window, when I have the idea of a super villain building a pyramid with an eye on top. (Famously on the one dollar bill, it’s the Eye of Providence. Look it up). I could just let it go. Ideas are cheap and this isn’t all that great – using well known imagery (linked to various conspiracy theories) for a sight gag, especially when I don’t really have an artist to collaborate with.

On the other hand I had been throwing ideas at a friend for a superhero, the Siege Engineer, who fights crime in the most inconvenient way possible, namely by using a trebuchet. This seems like a good match; a trebuchet would initially seem a good device to use against a stationary building, but the pyramid would obviously turn out to be super-strong and the slope would help resist thrown rocks. And perhaps most importantly I already have a page in my notebook for Siege Engineer.

So I come to the end of the paragraph, flip pages and scribble the idea down. Have a drink of water. Flick over to the web browser to look up the Eye of Providence (maybe the pyramid is a bank? Bank of Providence?). Check messages. Have another idea for a siege engineer plot[3]. Write that down.

(The things in the notebook are often of use later, though sometimes they come too late. I didn’t write for Who Do I Admire, mostly because of lack of time, but also because I didn’t have a good idea to write about. Later though I saw an especially stupid comment on a YouTube video, made a note and was inspired; no matter how poorly thought out my writing is it is infinitely better than that guy’s so I’ve improved the quality of online. I can only admire a guy who can make me look good.)

By now my subconscious has got on with, if not actual composing, certainly putting the pieces together so I can write the next few paragraphs more fluidly. I can grind it out when it’s not coming naturally but it’s hard, it’s tiring, and the result isn’t as good. I don’t get blocked though sometimes I get the message that I should maybe take a break – ten minutes for coffee, or a day, or a month even to let things fall into place.

Now we’re finally getting to the point, the actual title of the essay, Why I Stop Writing. You see...

I’m sorry. There’s somebody at the door. I’ll come back to this[5].

[1] Unless, of course, one is licensed to possess it or has had it lawfully prescribed.

[2] The Smoky God by Willis George Emerson. It is not very good.

[3] Basically use this video for Miike Snow’s song Genghis Khan[4] as the back-story for a three way stand-off.
[4] Kubla Khan’s grandfather of course.

[5] SPOILERS: I didn’t come back to it.

1 comment:

ProfBenj said...

Ah, yes, I recognise all that. For example, er, well, hang on a minute: I need to look up that site I used to enjoy. The URL is here somewhere. Ah, I'll have to save this as a draft and come back to it later. Don't go away...