Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Capital B

It is, of course, the oldest trick in the book - a writer with writer's block decides to write about having Writer's Block, thinking himself desperately clever and daring. Well, every writer above the age of twelve has had that idea - it's one of the defined stages of a writer's development, like the Autobiographical First Novel and the Bad Teenage Poetry.

Having gamely decided to write a novel about a creative writing class and therefore not one but an entire cast of writers, I was bound to get to a point where I'd have to write about Block. It is perhaps understandable that I have found myself Blocked while trying to write that bit, which on the face of it should be a good thing from a research point of view (although it never stopped Lynne Truss) but is actually just annoying, and contagious to the extent that I have been putting off blogging and replying to emails as well. All the more ironic since blogging was something I started precisely to avoid Block in the first place... initially I began this exercise as something light and throwaway that I could knock out in half an hour a week and not have to think too hard about, a good tactic for ridding oneself of Block, but averse as I am to throwing any of my writing away (I think we all are, us writers: I think deep down we all fear that we only have a finite number of ideas and that they are not to be wasted on frippery) I've found myself putting more and more effort into it. I still enjoy it, but I suspect I take it too seriously.

I have distracted myself from the novel by birthing a new short story for the reissue of my collection of ages ago, Paying For Breakages - the new story is called Stitches and is my new favourite, I think. Hard going, though - the shadow cast by Block is a long one. It's popularly supposed to be a simple inability to write anything but I often find it to be rather more complex than that: I find I tend to be Blocked on one project but not on another, hence my habit of juggling multiple activities at any one time. I was brought up to never waste a minute, and even the thought of sitting and reading a book when I could (nay, should) be writing one is weighed down with Author's Guilt.

I need a hobby, I think: something a little more constructive (and less addictive) than Xbox but not so taxing as to rob me of time and energy to write. Dido's live DVD, which I have had for ages but only just watched last week (I save these little pleasures for when I really need them: Valentine's Day is one such occasion), has inspired me to consider learning the guitar. Dido herself only started playing one comparatively recently, just after the second album if memory serves, having learned piano and classical song at school age. You're never too old to add a new trick to the list.

I have a lot of respect for Dido's songwriting ability, actually: she reminds me of Neil Gaiman in some ways, what with the apparent simplicity of prose and the underlying complexity of emotion. Also, she doesn't always have happy endings, which you have to respect in a pop singer - not wilfully miserable like most of the male singer-songwriters that have clogged TMF with fashionable melancholy in the last year or two, just realistic. Emotional journalism, almost.

Ah, lovely Dido.

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