The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Blankness

or,

One Writer’s Experience With Writer’s Block and What Came Out
by Steve Gajadhar

I tried for hours this morning to construct a coherent story, but all my ideas led inexorably to blankness. I couldn’t describe, I couldn’t narrate. I searched through my ever expanding list of thematic statements and still found nothing. And now my head is pounding. My heart is pounding. They don’t pound out of suppressed emotion (although, in a sense, I guess they do), they pound out of frustration (see) at my inability to create anything of any use. The delete key on my computer steals the symbolic pile of crumpled paper from me, but it’s still there. Trust me. It sits as an Everest image of my writer’s block.

Ugh.

I even tried writing about blankness to get the juices flowing. A story to fill the blankness, using blankness as inspiration. My toes wiggled with the excitement of dabbling with the threads of the story. I could zoom in on a forgotten abuse scene complete with the camera and scene type effect necessary in today’s fiction. I could make my character tourette out words she doesn’t mean as allusions of suppressed abuse. Make her paint negative space pictures. Make her black out. Make her develop an affinity for pitless olives and shallow men.

Didn’t work, I was still blocked solid.

Then I tried changing up letters. It’s a favorite new trick of mine. Take what you’re thinking about when you’re writing, in my case blankness, and insert or move around letters to try and get a new concept, a new word to focus in on. B-l-a-n-k-n-e-s-s. How about a simple swap of an “c” for the first “n.” B-l-a-c-k-n-e-s-s. Now we’re getting somewhere! Blackness is easy. I can’t be blocked when I’m writing about blackness. It’ll help pull me away from thinking about blank screens and my blank brain.

Black. Black. Black.

Black. Contempt and anger. Racism and colour.

Colour…

My fingers are starting to tingle.

I’d like to relate a personal experience of mine and it has a bit of a tale to it, some movement of character--the something happening to someone--a character sketch of myself. Pull up in front of the Coke machine glow and have a listen.

When I was twenty one I had to paint a sensation for design class. I was assigned pain. The assignment was to span three weeks, it took me five minutes. I grabbed a three by three canvas and some black paint (matte of course) and an old, ratty brush and smeared paint on the canvas in thick uneven strokes. I got an A++. The mark was conditional on the explanation of our piece. And so I spewed about black as pain, as the black fury of hatred, as the absence of light. I dipped into the concepts of the colour wheel: If we all experienced sensation as colour, all got hammered by all sensations in equal amounts, we would have white (I could have easily sold white as pain too). But something goes wrong somewhere, it always does, and that extra dab of colour (pain in this case) turns it all black. Not the thick metaphoric strokes of my work, the extra dab turns it black for us in the literal sense. A++.

A kind of doubt was born that day. I question art beyond the surface now. I question the motivation behind it and the artist. I search for true art, that rare beautiful thing, because true art is hard, and writing is the hardest art there is. Forgive me if I’m biased, I can draw and paint, and I used to be not too bad of a musician, but I can’t write. Not worth a damn. But hey, tomorrow is a new day! Maybe tomorrow the blank will fill up and I’ll stop feeling so sorry for myself.

Damn. Still blocked. Check back in two weeks.

6 Comments:

Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Steve, it seems only natural that we should torment ourselves every now and then. Blocking ourselves from writing is the cruelest and bestest way to do that. Thanks for sharing, Bub.

p.s., even when you can't write, you're still a damn fine writer.

Wed Jun 14, 08:35:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

I so relate. My writers block doesn't take the form of blankness. I can always spew out something or other. I'll do your letter switcheroo and say 'badness'. My writer's block takes the form of 'badness'. What I write is bad. For weeks and weeks. I think I'll do what you've done here and write about 'badness'. I like your take the bull by the horns approach. And I have to say, it's worked in this case because your post is a solid piece of writing!

Wed Jun 14, 12:37:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

Aw shucks, thanks guys. The clouds are lifting.

Wed Jun 14, 01:27:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I can sure relate! One thing I do when I'm stuck is write as though I'm telling a "Once upon a time" story, not worrying about description and dialogue -- just first this happened, this this and this and so on. A story you might tell at the dinner table.

Thu Jun 15, 01:24:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Patricia said...

I would say that the clouds have more than lifted, I'm very curious to learn more and hear more about some of your other artistic endeavors. Maybe you can post a sketch that you've done. You aren't block at all, you're in color perhaps, it feels this way, reading this, I can feel all the colors and the the truth.

Fri Jun 16, 12:50:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Patricia said...

the truth...it's the terets (sp)..sorry...xo

Fri Jun 16, 12:51:00 AM EDT  

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