Saturday, May 18, 2013

How to Give Yourself Writer's Block

I get this question a lot: "How do you get over writer's block?"

But I decided to do the opposite and write a blog called "How do you create writer's block?" It occurred to me to write this because I was feeling creative, about to do some work, and then managed to completely kill it.

So here are some tips on how to stifle the creative juices:

-Read reviews, of your own books perferably, particulary negative reviews, although positive cans freak you out, too. If somebody loved one of your books, it means that your next book has to be even better, because nothing's worse than taking somebody who loves you and turning them into somebody who hates you. Oh, and confuse your books for yourself. When somebody says, "I didn't like this book," they really mean, "I didn't like you, the author, and I think you, the author, are terrible and awful and this review is totally personal."

-Read reviews of other books (or films or poems), especially your favorite books. Find a really scathing review of whatever book you consider to be the greatest book ever written, and then realize that if somebody hates the GREATEST BOOK EVER WRITTEN that much, what chance does your book every have?

-Read glowing reviews of fantastic books, and realize again, that there are truly, insanely, almost painfully brilliant books that exist in the world, and yours will never, ever, ever, EVER be anywhere close to that good, so why even bother?

-Check your sales rankings. If they're low, obsess over why they're low and fear what that means for future books, your career, the college fund for your children, and any other plans you'd thought of making for the future now that you'll have to find a new job and everyone will laugh at you for being a total public failure. If you're rankings are high, assume that it's either a) a glitch, or b) your rankings can't stay high forever, and soon they will plummet, and so now you begin to panic trying to come up with ways to sell books well forever, when in reality you never even really knew how you sold any in the first place.

-Think about money. How much you have, how much you don't have, how much soliders and teachers make, how much money is wasted on crap things, how much spent on a pair of flipflops at Walgreens and then you didn't even wear them because they were uncomfortable, and there's people in Africa that don't even have clean water, and millions of people die every day from starvation, and you put on 2 pounds last week, and the whole world is completely terrible and awful and you're not doing enough to make it better.

-Check Facebook. Not for anything particular and most of the stuff you see will annoy/irritate/bore you, and you don't even know why you're looking or why you're friends with a lot of these people, but you look anyway, compulsively. A few things amuse you, but most things won't, but you. Just. Keep. Looking.

-Go on Twitter. Twitter is better. You like Twitter because it's funnier, the links are smarter, and it's just generally a better experience. This cheers you up after you've thought about how terrible your writing is, how bad your sales are/will be, how the world is ending, so it's better than Facebook, which only depresses you. But just like Facebook, you check it compulsively and achieve nothing.

-Watch videos of Heath Ledger on YouTube. There really is no good reason to do this, but you find yourself doing it anyway, and getting sad remembering that he's dead, and then getting sad remembering that River Phoenix is dead, and getting sad remembering that Joaquin Phoenix is getting weird, and how everything changes and time keeps on  moving and people die every day and are you really accomplishing anything?

-Wonder if everything you do/think/feel/love is terrible and pointless, and even as you wonder it, you know it's true. In the scheme of things, all your obsessions and thoughts and worries are totally pointless, and in the blink of an eye, you'll be dead, and everyone you know will be dead, and in hundreds of years, they won't even remember you, and nothing you do really matters because you don't do anything that matters. You could, but you don't. And that should be liberating, and it is - a little - but then you get depressed again.

-Compare yourself to other authors. But don't stop there. Compare yourself to all kinds of people. Celebrities, Noble prize winners, doctors, presidents, sick kids, the poor, the rich, Kanye West, your mom, a kid you went to high school with, a cashier at the supermarket, a walrus, Juliet Capulet - it doesn't matter who it is, as long as you are comparing yourself to somebody and coming up lacking. And if you're doing it right, you can come up lacking against anyone. Sure, Hitler was evil and awful and slaughtered millions of innocent people, but he took over most of Europe and he was a vegetarian. You ate chicken nuggets and complained about getting up before noon today.

-For bonus points, assume that all other authors hate you, that everyone who has ever read anything you've written hates the words you write. In fact every one who has ever thought of you or knows of your existence thinks you're a joke and a hack and wants you to stop writing words.

Congratulations! You've killed all your creativity. Or if you haven't, you're a better man than I am, and let's face it, you probably are. 

It's also safe to say that since all of these things kills your creativity and also your will to live, that doing the opposite of those things will make you feel better. Don't read reviews. Don't worry about sales. Don't compare yourself to other people. Turn off Facebook and Twitter and YouTube.

Better yet, don't be a neurotic asshole like me, and write anyway, cause who really gives a crap what anyone else thinks?