Some thoughts on writer’s block

Hearkening back to an offhand comment in part 2 of Gremble’s Narratology — I’ve been pondering the question of how-much-do-we-verbalize-our-thoughts, and lately paying more attention to my own cognitive process as I go through daily life. I think I really do verbalize less than half the time, and almost never in complete sentences. I’ll see a dude with nice hair walk by, and the only word that pops out in my brain is, hair, accompanied by a non-verbalized cloud of approval. Or when mentally compiling a grocery list, must buy, followed by images of a bag of frozen broccoli or a gallon of milk, and where those are located in the store. Like some kind of nominal aphasia, that my brain doesn’t finish verbalizing the thought because the word for these things doesn’t come as readily as the rest of it.

I was chatting with a fellow writer-friend about this, and told him as much.

“Huh,” he said. “My thoughts are verbalized about 99% of the time.”

“Huh,” I said. “Really?”

“Yeah. This makes a lot of sense though — because I never could understand it when people say they can’t find the words to explain their thoughts. If I’m thinking something, it’s already in words.”

Which makes me wonder if mental verbalizing — or not, as the case may be — is at all related to writer’s block. If so, I am unutterably envious of people whose brains verbalize more than mine does. Because I’m never, ever out of ideas for fiction, but a frustrating amount of the time, I come up at a loss for words. “Soldier through” isn’t advice that works for me, because for the quality I produce when I’m soldiering, I might as well just roll my face on the keyboard.

The only thing that does work, with some degree of reliability, is to (1) go to bed reading and (2) wake up and write first thing in the morning — i.e., while I still have someone else’s words rattling around in my head. Which, unfortunately, isn’t always feasible when you’re a grown-up with other obligations in your life.

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In other news, I’m back to work on the Dredd fic, and it still takes me a thousand words to get my people out of an elevator. Guys, I am not built for short-form.

Bastard out of Carolina, by Dorothy Allison (36/107)

This book was excellent, and I never want to read it again. Rural poverty gives me the raging heebie jeebies, I don’t even know. This was 300 pages of helplessness and despair in a world where everything tastes like failure. I read it cover to cover.

And then today I sat down and wrote all damn day. I am four thousand words richer than when I woke up this morning.

Takeaway lesson from Bastard Out of Carolina: details. Details, details, details. To make it real, make it plausible, make it unique, make it immersive, make it sympathetic, to make it something the readers can believe every word of and lose themselves in. By rights, each and every character in that book should have been a stereotype, but the sheer amount of humanizing detail about these people and their lives made them much more than that.

Read it if you’re a writer, or if you like stories about fucked up Southern families.

A History of Celibacy, by Elizabeth Abbott (29/107)

There was a meme I came across a few years back: grab the book closest to you, and then append “…in my pants” to the title. What was mine?

A History of Celibacy

…haaaaaah. So apt, except when it’s not.

I hadn’t gotten around to reading it until now though, when I started doing the research for a Judge Dredd fic and suddenly it became highly relevant to my interests.

Exciting Adventures in Celibacy: male virgins, why Megacity's Justice Department is like the Catholic church, psychic & sexless, and IT IS WRONG TO PLAY WITH THE ROBOT.

Spring Cleaning I: “The Way of Shadows” & threats of sexual violence

Greetings, my fellow queer literates!

I haven’t actually fallen off the face of the earth, I’ve just started — of all things — a business selling fetish gear and am actually turning a profit. It’s kind of surreal. It’s also consuming all of my free time, which is why I haven’t had time to read anything except nonfiction books with titles like Online Marketing for Small Business Owners, and even less time to blog about it.

But! Books are my first love and I miss discussing them with y’all folks, so here’s the game: I found a bunch of half-finished writing-about-reading posts that I’d started and then shelved when I couldn’t hammer them into coherent essays. The plan had been to come back and polish them at some later point, but, well, once I’ve moved on to newer and shinier things that’s not likely to happen. So I’m going to be doing a round-up, wrapping up my not-entirely-streamlined essays and tossing them online for public discussion. Your two cents are always welcome! :D

Today’s post is about The Way of Shadows, by Brent Weeks, and how much it pissed me off. If rape is a sensitive issue for you, you may want to skip this one, because WoS fucking button-mashes it.

"THROW HIM TO THE SODOMITES!" and other gems