Wednesday, August 4, 2010

On Squeezing Your Brain and Writing

I once read in a beautifully written novel, “The Angel’s Game,” by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, that the burst of inspiration that you might think characterizes true writers isn’t real. Writers, the author announces, sit down and “squeeze their brain” until their fingers bleed, and their elbows take on the shape of the table. Writers don’t think initially – they just let out all that is inside of them. It’s important to understand the hardship involved in the squeezing. Material will never magically burst out of your being, and carelessly flow onto the paper – you must force it out of you.

This week, I was supposed to interview the director of an upcoming, rather known, movie. I was in contact with his PR agency for another assignment, and his representative brought up a possible interview with him when I was done with the first project. I was obviously grateful for the opportunity and started researching my newest subject immediately. I came up with a series of questions (tip: always have more questions than you think you’ll need. You want to minimize the awkward moments of silence, which, I assure you, diminish as you practice), and set up a date and time for the phone conversation. It went pretty well, and I think I got a good interview out of him. I had to transcribe the tape, and decide which questions and answers were worth sending to my editor.

I decided to structure the piece into two categories. First, I would write a paragraph or two about the subject – and then I would include about three questions and answers. For some reason, I could not bring myself to write the introduction. Maybe I was tired, or just wasn’t feeling the subject as much as I would have wanted to… but I had to write. And so I sat down, I stopped thinking, and I wrote. Mind you, this was just a couple of paragraphs about a director whom I spoke to for about 20 minutes over the phone. I have certainly written more compelling, emotionally challenging, life inspiring pieces. But this was good. I was good. I sat down, I squeezed my brain, I let my fingers bleed for an hour… but I wrote it, and it had my name on it, and I surely hope it’ll get published as I submitted it.

I am telling you this because I know that, as an aspiring writer (and, I’m sure, for established writers as well), writing doesn’t always come naturally. You might feel inspired by something that happens around you, run to the first laptop or the first notebook, and pour your heart out. But that doesn’t usually happen. The inspiration comes, I promise. But you have to push it out, you have to stare at the blank screen, and you have to start writing when you’re not even sure what you’re writing about. You have to move forward – don’t stop and wait for lighting to strike, because it won’t. Sit down, squeeze your brain, and start moving those fingers.

Have you ever had writer's block? How have you dealt with it?

Until next week,
Ed's Web Intern

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