Monday, December 14, 2009

A Different Sort of Writer's Block

Someone once asked Michelangelo how he was able to sculpt an angel out of a block of marble. His reply: "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."

Writers face a similar task. They must chip away everything that holds their story back, that prevents it from taking flight. But there's an additional task. Unlike sculptors, writers must first create that block of marble, the material that will require so much chipping, carving, shaping, and polishing.

Some writers enjoy making the marble. They revel in writing the initial draft, setting their imaginations free and allowing their characters to take them wherever the magic of creativity takes them. They dread the process of carving and polishing. Other writers prefer the chipping and carving. I'm in that camp. For me, the first draft is the most painful part of the writing process.

The problem is that inner voice, some call it the inner editor, constantly telling me that what I'm writing is stupid, obvious, or done before by much more gifted writers. It also enjoys reminding me, frequently, that progress-to-date is woefully slow.

"But go ahead," it says every morning. "Try to fill that blank computer screen with something someone will actually want to read. Good luck, pal."

And so, every morning, I must first take my hammer to my inner editor. It gets messy.

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