As I round out the last big project I’ll have on my compositional plate for a while, I reflect that I’ve been experiencing serious bouts of writer’s block. Or at least that’s what I assumed I was experiencing, until I ran across a post by Scott Berkun that makes the rather prescient point that “it’s not the fear of writing that blocks people, it’s fear of not writing well.” In other words, my problem is more accurately described as satisfaction block. He recommends strategies for dealing with this and other common impediments, many of which involve either distracting yourself temporarily or deliberately forcing output of the something, anything sort while remembering that quality usually comes in the editing. This is excellent advice, but due to my cosmically extreme struggles with rewriting, I find that a forge-ahead approach can actually exacerbate satisfaction block when quality time is nigh (i.e., exactly now).
When I write, I spit out long something, anything-style chunks of moderately related ideas and then try to string them together into a logical narrative later. I end up cutting, pasting, and reconstituting until I have completely tied myself in knots and either trampled or forgotten my own point. My nagging satisfaction block culprits are therefore discursiveness and excessive length – the only talent for brevity and/or clarity I possess is in titling. Beyond that, I tend to run on to the nth degree, which my perennially patient and heroic editor often reminds me is the readability kiss of death. Watching an idea unfold itself into words is one of the more unquestionably pleasant aspects of being an author. That said (and I speak from hard-earned experience), some thoughts simply begin so wadded that no amount of smoothing makes them presentable.
Firmly believing in the adage that every good idea lends itself to graceful abstraction, I constantly try to trick myself into getting to the point – I should be able to boil down brief and coherent summaries of anything I write, no matter how meandering it might have begun. Berkun’s best advice is of the self-flagellatory sort: when all else fails, switch to something more difficult. As penance for my deviations and to catalyze my ass into gear for a particularly demanding stint of productivity, I’ll now force myself to explain each post or publication I remember struggling with mightily over the past few years in one comprehensible sentence. Here goes:
That was very, very difficult. Wish me luck.