On Having Nothing to Say

December 8, 2011 — 7 Comments

Maybe you noticed, maybe you didn’t, but I haven’t posted anything substantial on this blog in over three weeks. I don’t really like the term “writer’s block” because it implies that I can’t write, like something is physically stopping me. But nothing is stopping me, as evidenced by this highly navel-gazing bit of writing you’re reading at this very moment. Or maybe you’re only skimming it, in which case maybe I’ll include some subliminal, coded messages throughout this piece. Of course, because they’re subliminal you’ll only see them if you aren’t looking for them. So don’t look for those messages, you won’t find them. Got it? Good. Now that I’ve completely gotten off track, let’s talk about why I haven’t been writing.

Writing is hard. It’s a hard thing to do, to express oneself in written words. There is a permanence to writing. Not a literal permanence, but a perception of permanence. If I have written something and shown it to people then it is in stone. This is, of course, a load of shit. My opinions in writing are just as fluid as those I speak, and are probably as fluid as the thoughts in my head from one second to the next. That perception is still there, though. It’s as though if I put something in writing I must therefore have put serious thought into my statements and thus I must be able to stand by them or back them up. And so writing becomes difficult. If those are the things expected of me when I write then I do have to put some thought in.

Thought is what has killed my writing. I can’t think. Or, more accurately, lately I haven’t been able to settle on one thought or another. They all jumble together and inform each other and become mixed up. One second I’m saying that The Muppets is one of the best movies of the year because all it is is fun; the next second I’m complaining that all The Artist is is fun. And when I try to break down my thoughts on the issue I just get a headache. When I get into a conversation about it I end up shouting and making bold statements that hold no water.

I got into a long conversation recently about the nature of ambiguity in films. I had so much to day, and some of those things were quite insightful in my opinion. Since some of the conversation happened in chat form, I can provide you with a few examples of those moments of insight, like this bit:

We can sit here and have a conversation about the potential themes in Shame, but everything becomes purely speculative rather than definitive. And I don’t mean subjective vs. objective. I mean that we discuss themes are nebulously connected to what may be motivating factors for the characters even though we never really learn anything about them. So we are speculating rather than interpreting based on definitive views of what these characters brought to the table. There’s so much meat when you start discussing, but it’s imaginary meat. like a starving family looking at a plate with a bone on it and imagining the fully cooked rack of lamb that might have been there.

Or check this out:

Ambiguity is a poor scapegoat for a movie not having anything meaningful to say.

Or how about this:

[By using ambiguity poorly, these films] shortchange the chance for making statements or exploring ideas with any real depth of thought.

I had strong thoughts to turn these statements, and the conversation as a whole, into an awesome blog post. Then I started writing. It all died. I wrote 1,000 words, was not even halfway done and I hadn’t said a single thing worth saying. Those “insightful” lines above came in the context of a conversation, but to transfer them to a more concrete bit of writing, a bit of writing I can stand behind in a more meaningful way, that’s difficult. In fact, I found it impossible and so I stopped.

That’s probably a good breakdown of my writing process over the last three weeks. I have crazy opinions that I think would be cool to share. I sit down to write. I get out some words. I realize that my thoughts were only half-formed to begin with and my writing is even worse. I stop.

And then I settle on the truth of it all. I have too much to say, but in the end nothing. Nothing I have to say is worthwhile. It’s not writer’s block that’s stopping me. I’m not blocked from writing. I could write if I want to. The writing wouldn’t be any good, though. Incomplete ideas and bold statements with nothing to support them.

I might have just become a bit too picky as of late. In fact, I know that I have. Maybe my pickiness has robbed this blog of three weeks of posts, but I’ll be frank and say that you, the reader, have not been robbed of anything. Well, except maybe of the time it took you to read this post. Had I posted everything I was thinking of posting, it would have been a waste of my time and yours. What it comes down to is I had nothing worth writing about. And if I’m being honest, I don’t know when the next time will be that I find something worth writing about. Maybe it’ll be tomorrow. Maybe it’ll be in a month. I hope it’s the former, but either way you’ll all have to (not) bear with me in the meantime.

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7 responses to On Having Nothing to Say

  1. 

    I beg to disagree. I liked to read this post. You shared a feeling writers can have sometime and I could totally recognize it. I think you’re treating the blockage or whatever you should call it the right way: by writing. Write your way out of whatever is keeping you from writing. Just write and let it flow through your veins out through your fingers. Don’t even read it too closely and don’t judge it. The important thing isn’t the outcome, it’s the process.
    And little by little you’ll conquer your mojo again. And maybe even write something you feel comfortable at putting up at your blog.

    Btw you have VERY high demands on yourself. This is a blog. Not your assertation or Big Novel Corey. It’s a room for experiements and practice. Where you can be crappy some cays and a genious others. That’s the charm. And you know what – I’ll be with you here waiting for you to write more no matter what. I’m not easily scared away.

    *hugs*

    • 

      I know it’s not my novel or anything important, but I don’t usually like to have posts that I later look back on and go “I shouldn’t have said that the way I said it.”

  2. 

    I’ve recently finished a screenplay more than a couple of weeks ago that took me seven months to do though in a very sporadic form. I’m working on an outline for another project but it’s coming along very slowly as I have no idea what to do with it. This is why I’ve decided to write essays for the time being other than my reviews just to keep myself busy. If I do have an idea, I write it down. Yet, I prefer to pace myself with these projects and not be engrossed into it.

  3. 

    Well, thanks for letting me run with the ideas you decide are not worth writing about. I have far lower standards on how well thought out stuff should be. I rather find thinking gets in the way of writing.

    • 

      I didn’t say that the topic was not worth writing about, just that what I would have to say would be poorly thought out and not worth reading, which means it wasn’t worth me writing about. Your article about the topic was much better than what I would have written.

  4. 

    great read man. i know exactly what you mean.

  5. 

    Writing is hard work. Period. Sometimes it comes more easily than other times, but most of the time it’s just plain difficult – and often unsatisfying – work. Out of writing, writing, writing, and more writing comes a tiny portion of stuff that might be considered really good. Listen to more professional, published writers and the things they say on interviews – very nearly all of them say 3/4 of what they write is crap. We see just the published bits.

    I don’t know if this will help but here are some things I’ve talked with my writing students about over the years:

    -Don’t expect your first draft of anything to be great. Your first draft is your first attempt to get some thoughts down that have been roiling around in your head or it’s your first attempt to compile a few things you’ve already jotted down (the latter is often the case with my students who have discussion notes and freewrites). Anne Lamott, teacher and author (of Bird by Bird, for example, – great book), says she gives her students permission to write a really terrible first draft. Bingo. Beginning to write about something is just that: a beginning. If your piece sucks the first time you try writing, that’s no sign of anything – not a sign you can’t write, not a sign your ideas aren’t good. It just means you need to think and write some more. And the stuff you begin with is not at all useless. Shaky steps, maybe, but steps. If you can find one tiny thing, one small connection, one satisfying paragraph, one little idea in your first attempt that you like or that you think is a seed of something – you’ve succeeded.

    -But even without some tangible end result, there is success in the doing of it. Writing alone is a valuable process because writing is thinking, and thinking produces ideas – and even little ideas are new things that you have created, new things you can add to a conversation – maybe a future conversation, not one now. Even in this blog post – writing about writing, writing about (perceived) failure – you’ve done something interesting, something that provokes a response in others.

    Keep on keeping on, Corey.

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