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INside Scoop
Writers Hit Snake Pit
By Rowdy Rhodes
September, 2005, 11:59

All creative types find themselves in the snake pit of writers' block, but they get out.
ot so long ago, in a place not so far away, there was a flashy and intelligent writer trapped within the confines of her own mind.

It was a frustrating time for her, an arduous journey that led her hither and yon over the years to places of great mystery where she learned how to delve deep within herself to find what she had to say to the world. She was natural-born creative and writing was her passion.

One day she found herself staring at an empty piece of paper. A mountain of whiteness that was both truly beautiful to behold and terrifying to view. As her eyes fell on the page, her brain went as blank as the sheet she was staring at. And then came the fear, the confusion, the feeling of being abandoned by her talent.

Like a carpenter who's lost his hammer, her ability to express herself had faded, if not disappeared. Many writers, at one time or another, have been there -- so many things to say, so many random ideas, so many feelings to express -- a befuddling mire of creativity.

What was she to do? She tried all of the professional suggestions; writing cues and prompts, walks, hobbies, reading, jotting notes, researching topics, staring at drawings, people and pictures for inspiration, yet it all failed spectacularly.

Even her own tried-and-true routines failed. And as deadline loomed closer, the fear increased and the blank page maintained its intimidating whiteness (See Alison Tharen's Empty Page Rage article in this issue).

The more she stared at the page the more it appeared to be berating her, double-daring her to type even a single letter on it. It goaded her to break out of her creative block. It humiliated her into doing anything that would change the cursed thing from blank white to white liberally peppered with crisp black words.

"Go ahead," it sneered. "Make a statement and reveal your imagination, your wit, your creativity, you nitwit. Use your style, your thoughts and ideas already!"

And like a deer frozen by fear in the headlights of a roaring semi, she sat stock still, writhing with writer's block, about to be run over by the deadline hurtling toward her.

Then, miraculously, a small crack appeared in her block. She suddenly found her fingers dancing to the music of her muses as the floodgates opened and she began to describe the experience and how it made her feel.

The frustration of writer's block is hell on earth, she concluded, especially when it's armed with a murderous deadline.

Using the talents she was born with and the skills she steadily developed, she wrote what she knew and felt the moment as she posed her dilemma to no one in particular.

"Do all writers go through this?" Maybe she was just writing what she needed to write to continue on with her monthly column deadline. Maybe she was searching for a reason why she started, and continued, to write in the first place.

Maybe all she needed to actually do is write. Write. A word found in the dictionary between writ and writhe. An action that sounds so simple yet is just as difficult for her as it was for Beethoven to create his symphonies.

Do all creative souls find themselves in the snake pit of writers block? You can bet your bottom dollar they do and most find ways to dig themselves out, although I don't recommend cutting off an ear to do it, a la Mr. Vincent.

For some it takes a minute, for others it takes years. Some lose their desire to write and are crushed by that semi on the highway. With those writers I commiserate and sympathize. I consider them fallen comrades in arms -- or should I say pens, since they are mightier than the sword -- and many remain missing in action.

Then there are those of us who battle on, day after day, and the desire to write sort of organically obliterates the block. Most of what gets written is garbage anyway, that needs to be tossed long before it hits an editor's desk, much less the eyes of unsuspecting readers.

Yet many, especially here at IN, are mini-masterpieces that inspire others to read, write, learn and enrich their lives.

I don't know if the above is claptrap, garbage or what. But I write it for my comrades who have fallen many times into the pit but have always found their liberating ladders wrought from language.

And we'll be here at IN, sometimes simpering in the pit with you, sometimes not. But we're always willing to bust a myth, confirm an absurdity, correct vast mistakes, expose the charlatans, and, oh yes, lend an ear like we did last month with one of our columnists, Jennifer Edelson, so that when you do fall in, as you are almost certain to do, you find your way out.


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