Sometimes I’m asked how I deal with writer’s block.
Usually I say that I can’t afford to get infected; that writer’s block is a luxury for hobbyists, not fledgling wordsmiths racing neck-and-neck with the poverty line.
But here’s my confession: I say that mostly because it sounds cool, not because it’s 100 percent honest. It’s certainly true that I can’t afford to give up and take a nap, but writer’s block does sometimes strike.
I cured my last bout about 10 minutes ago.
The root cause of this mental constipation is the realization that I don’t know what to write about, followed by heavy panic. Panic prompts block, which prompts more panic, which prompts more block.
When I’m in the middle of an episode it’s not a pretty sight; I get up, I sit down, I mutter to myself, I pull my hair, I look in the fridge, I cruise YouTube, I pace to and fro.
When it gets really bad, I just start staring at objects in my environment while my inner dialogue plays:
Clocks. What do you know about clocks? Not much. Can you make clocks interesting? Probably not.
Okay, toasters. What do you know about toasters? Even less than clocks. You burned yourself on a toaster once, can you write about that?
That would just be stupid. You’re stupid. Your sock has a hole in it. You should have taken business in college.
A few months ago I wrote an essay about a cobra and a mongoose that was birthed by the above-mentioned method.
Inevitably, as the deadline approaches, something always twigs. I don’t know how the psychological mechanisms work, but luckily they do — just in the nick of time.
However, once writer’s block has been conquered the scribe must be careful not to acquire the opposite affliction; literary diarrhea.
Literary diarrhea is characterized by a tendency to natter on, to beleaguer the point, to be long on wind, to give too many examples, to pontificate uselessly, to repeat one’s self in slightly different words, to be seemingly clueless about the reader’s desire to finish the article, to retread old territory, to linger over a small irrelevant detail, and to just not know when to shut up.
Not wanting to be accused of such a crime-of-letters, I hereby pledge that this sentence (the one I’m writing right now) will be the last in this piece.
Peter Jickling is a Whitehorse playwright and the assistant editor of What’s Up Yukon