What do you write when there’s nothing there? When the well has dried up, and all you see before you is an arid desert, your poor, writer’s brain fried by the sun? Nothing, I suppose. But wait. Is it really possible to run out of things to say? It seems unlikely, given the tidal wave of inconsequential dross that passes through the right-hemisphere every day.
Perhaps the whole business should be judged on its entertainment value alone before we arrive at any serious conclusions. How many writers do you know who describe their chosen occupation as fun? Not many. But why shouldn’t we take a little time out every now and then and enjoy ourselves? Thrash out a stream of consciousness piece that doesn’t make sense to anyone. Write fantasy or science fiction because we can.
We all know that good writing is merely junk, rewritten countless times. Hemingway’s observation was spot-on. But why does the process have to be so darned exacting? That’s one of the reasons you never see fat novelists. They’re all stuck in garret rooms (what again!) pouring over draft no. 17, to worry about food. And that’s the ones who can afford sustenance. Most have to rely on handouts from well-meaning friends, or benevolent prostitutes (if you happen to be Russian).
Sometimes you have to give up and walk away. Tiredness, stress, marital problems. So many elements conspire to drag the author from his favourite chair, that it’s a wonder anything gets finished at all. The sense of failure is excruciating. If you’re only as good as your last sentence, and that was written six months ago, how will you ever hope to get started again?
Writing is hard. But it isn’t real work, as anyone who’s worked on a building site for eight hours a day can attest. And if writer’s block exists (I, for one, believe is doesn’t), then it’s up to the ailing hack to recreate the conditions that enabled him to produce his best work in the first place. If it’s silence you need, get rid of the TV, or banish the wife and kids to another part of the house. Or, if you’re one of those strange creatures that thrive on noise, plug your machine in at the local Starbucks and wait for inspiration.
But seriously. Let’s be honest about this. The only time you really run out of something to say is when you stop breathing. Make the most of the time you’ve got left and pound those keys ’til your fingertips bleed and your brain collapses. That way you can say you gave it your best shot. You finally produced a whole stack of inconsequential dross to leave to your grandchildren.