Friday, May 30, 2014

Karl the Curmudgeon Hates Writer's Block

I'm stuck, Karl, I said.

"What?" said Karl. "Are your pants caught on the stool again?"

No, I'm writer stuck. I'm blocked. I can't think of anything to write about.

"You've got writer's block? How in the hell do you get writer's block?"

It's — I don't know. I've been trying to think of a topic for this week's column, but nothing is popping into my brain. I'm dry.

"What are you talking about? You're the Kid, Kid. You don't get writer's block. You talk half as much as you write, and most days, I can't even get you to shut the hell up!" Karl plonked his glass on the bar.

"Tommy, give me two mojitos, please." We were at Hudson's Bar, a Bimini-themed island bar. Bimini is one of the islands in the Bahamas, and we were there for a friend's book launch. It was late and most of the party guests had left. The literary fiction crowd is not known for staying up late, and most of them had bailed by 9:30.

"Listen, Kid, I've been writing since I was 17, and I can count the number of times I've had writer's block on one hand." He slapped the bar. "No, on one finger!

"Writer's block is just some lame excuse created by poseurs and dabblers who wait for 'The Muse' to wave her magic sparkle wand whenever they feel like scribbling in their fake leather hipster notebooks. What was it Terry Pratchett said about writer's block? That it was invented by people in California who couldn't write?"

Something like that, I said, drinking my mojito. Tommy made mojitos the right way, with rum, club soda, lime, and mint leaves.

That's great and all, I said, but that doesn't solve my problem. I think I'm running out of juice. I'm trying to come up with a few ideas for articles, another book, and an editorial calendar for my newspaper column."

"Editorial calendar? You never even think of your topic until about four hours before your deadline."

Shh! I hissed. My editor is over there, and I don't want him getting his panties in a twist in case he's listening. A quick glance that direction assured me my secret was safe. He was too busy trying to put some drunken moves on a creative writing professor from Butler who hadn't dated men since her junior year of high school. I didn't have the heart to tell him he was probably also going to be the subject of her next short story.

So what do you suggest? I asked.

"First, you need to get our of your head. You've been working too hard anyway. Take a break, and go somewhere for a while. Don't do any work, don't take your computer, and don't do anything that has to do with putting words on paper."

But—

"If you have to, take a notebook and a pen. When you get an idea, write it down, then go back to not doing anything."

But—

"In the future, if you find yourself getting stuck, go for a walk, ride your bike, or putter around in your garage. Do something that engages a different part of your brain, so your subconscious can work on the problem.

"But most of all, remember this." Karl leaned in close, grabbed my collar and stuck his gnarled finger in my face. I could smell the mint leaves and rum on his breath. "You're a f---ing professional. Pros never get blocked. They've got too much work to do to get blocked. Plumber's don't get plumber's block. Accountants don't get accountant's block. And professional writers don't get writer's block. They just work on the next damn project."

As he released my collar, I could feel the dam burst and a flood of new ideas raging through my brain. You did it, Karl, you did it! I know what I need to do! I jumped off my bar stool, thumped him on the back, and headed for the door.

You're a real life saver, Old Man. See you later.

"Hey, who's going to cover this bar bill," he hollered after me.

No time to talk, I called back. The gates have burst open. Time's a-wastin'!

I walked back to my car and patted my empty back pocket. I was going to have to remember not to use the writer's block scam the next time I forgot my wallet.



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