For those who write for a living, the issue of writer’s block doesn’t come up as often as television and movies may have others believe. Sure, there’s plenty of times where the words don’t flow like they should. Or a writer may find they’ve written drivel and start again. Or the beginning proves elusive.[...]
The literary voice of Virginia Woolf comes to us from a life lived fully in the service of literature, a life devoted, we might say, to the “craft of writing.” That earnest expression gets tossed around innocently enough in various grammatical forms.[...]
Go to a bookstore.
Tell the clerk you’re an aspiring writer.
You’ll be directed to a shelf—possibly an entire section—brimming with prompts, exercises, formulae, and Jedi mind tricks. Round out your purchase with a journal, a fancy pen, or an inspirational quote in bookmark form.
The inner critic creates writer’s block and stifles adventurous writing, hems it in with safe clichés and overthinking.[...]
Sports Night, The West Wing, The American President, The Social Network — hardly shameful items to appear on anyone’s résumé.[...]
Some of the best, most succinct writing advice I ever received came from the great John McPhee, via one of his former students: “Writing is paying attention.” What do you see, hear, taste, etc.? Questions of style, syntax, and punctuation come later.[...]
Image via Wikimedia Commons
Is it possible to fully separate a word’s sound from its meaning—to value words solely for their music? Some poets come close: Wallace Stevens, Sylvia Plath, John Ashbery. Rare phonetic metaphysicians. Surely we all do this when we hear words in a language we do not know.
Image via Creative Commons
Most everyone who knows the work of George Orwell knows his 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language” (published here), in which he rails against careless, confusing, and unclear prose. “Our civilization is decadent,” he argues, “and our language… must inevitably share in the general collapse.
Quite patiently, Ben Watts cut apart and stitched together scenes from 53 films (find a complete list here) showing characters suffering through writer’s block. Adaptation, Barton Fink, Shakespeare in Love, The Royal Tenenbaums, and, yes, Throw Momma From the Train–they’re among the films featured in the 4-minute supercut above.[...]
Whatcha mean, “what’s a zine”?
Some say Thomas Paine originated the concept in 1776, when he self-published the pamphlet, Common Sense… an assertion author and cultural critic Greil Marcus would likely find a “spurious” attempt to confer legitimacy on a movement that occupies the societal fringes by definition.