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What Wine, Composting And William Stafford All Have In Common

By Author: Philip Johnson
Total Articles: 38

Writer's Block. The mere words fall like a dead weight on a writer's psyche, having sent many a published author in search of the bottle, or worse.
The psychological inhibition has even inspired an entire line of Writer's Block wines from Noonji Estates in Australia and Steele Wines in Kelseyville, CA-all ten varieties under $16. I have the cork to prove it. (OK, many corks, but that's beside the point.)
Let's face it, no one writes the great American novel right out of college. You have to live a little-experience life, experience love, joy, hardship, suffering, and loss (all of the elements in a good story, all of the things that change us).
There's nothing like starting a new WIP (Work-In-Progress) and staring down a blank page. More accurately, the blank page is actually mocking you. Intimidating, yes. Reassuring, no.
Some writers experience writer's block at the end of the book. How to tie up all of those loose ends? And how do you know when the story is complete? Does the story end itself? Do the characters tell you? Wine, anyone?
I, myself, have experienced writer's block right smack dab in the middle of nearly every WIP-somewhere in between I have a great idea and this is how it all ends. Transitions can be killers.
What we really need to do is lock away that internal editor. Chain him up far, far away from the action and let him watch. Just watch. Don't let him speak, clear his breath, or even waive a finger in the air. No gesturing allowed!
So many writers claim to be great sufferers for their art, or at least come from great suffering to be able to create. So, it's only fair that we force our internal editors to suffer right along with us. You have my permission.
For all of those suffering poets, William Stafford offered this advice: "There is no such thing as writer's block for writers whose standards are low enough." What does that mean? Were you looking for something sage? Resounding? Something profound? You won't find it here.
Certainly Stafford isn't suggesting that we all write junk. What he really means is that something good will come out of it eventually. In the meantime, write. Save some trees by using your laptop. Burn off some calories while your fingers abuse the delete key. Don't be afraid to throw something away and make room for what's actually going to make your story catch fire right there on the page and give you momentum all the way to the very end.
To expound further, I believe what Stafford was also referring to was our rather nasty little habit of expecting too much from ourselves. Expecting the right thing to come out right away, when 90% of what we start with is pure rubbish.
In fact, I find writing is very much like composting. You have to throw a lot of trash in there-stuff you wouldn't even let your dog chew up and spit out-before you can ever come up with anything good. Just pile it on in there-eggshells, banana peels, bits of newspaper, bread crust, coffee grounds, and a few worms for good measure. Mix it all up then let it sit awhile, especially in the hot sun. Stir it up. Leave it alone. Let it stink. Let it really stink. Then come back to it and stir it again-for a real long time.
With enough ingredients and patience, you've finally got something good for gardening, something to promote character and story growth-yes, fertilizer. Then, and only then-after you have thrown all the crap that you can in your story, stirred it up, and really messed with it-can you pry the fingers off of that internal editor's eyes and let him look, sigh, and get to work.

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