In the current “The Literals” story arc in Bill Willingham’s Fables comic series, the grand master of all story-telling (or this is who we think Kevin Thorn is, at the moment) is trying to reboot the universe. Since he wrote everything into being, he has the ability to a) write it out of existence b) write a new version of the world.
He has some problems similar to what I’m going through this morning…
(Fables is a comic series about the classic fairy- and folk-tale characters of Western culture living in New York after their original home-worlds are destroyed by an evil genius with a surprising identity that I won’t spoil for you right now, in case you ever read the books. Snow White and the Big Bad Wolf (Bigby, for short) are married, for example. The Fables (the title of the comic is also the collective noun used to describe all these characters) are trying to stop Kevin Thorn erasing them.)
The problem Thorn came up against in the most recent issue was his twin brother, Writer’s Block.
Writer’s Block is represented as a drooling catatonic in a straightjacket (aside: Willingham’s writing has been veering on crude/offensive lately — this straightjacketed rendition feels vaguely uncomfortable, though it does communicate certain associations about writer’s block efficiently; the more baffling thing to happen recently was Jack Horner pretty much raping Rose Red — she was under the delusion that Jack was her lost love Boy Blue, and Jack is represented as too ignorant to realise that Rose is confused, but the overall effect is incredibly unsettling, and it doesn’t seem as if it’s intentional. Anyway.). The existence of the character Writer’s Block, being Thorn’s twin, is the reason that Thorn is having such difficulty rewriting the world.
The reason that I’m writing about this is that Willingham uses Writer’s Block in some clever ways, that might be instructive for my writer’s block this morning. Thorn tries to talk to Writer’s Block, to work his problem out rationally, but because of his condition this is impossible. There’s usually little one can do to reason your way through writer’s block, and this morning I’ve found myself just staring at my computer screen and not being able to get anything down. I tried some exercises, writing overall direction statements, which are useful in themselves but for the current methodology section I’m working on, it didn’t help.
I think part of the problem I’m having is that I know how important this summer is for me, as it’s the only time I’ll get, I think, where all I have to do, uninterrupted, is WRITE. Next year I’ll be teaching/working/researching during term-time, so I want to write as much as possible over the next four months, with the output (hopefully) being a first draft of my thesis. This is a pretty big task, and I think I’ll get it done. But having such excellent weather this last week has made it really hard to focus. So I need a way to defeat my writer’s block.
Kevin Thorn eventually tries to kill his twin, only to procrastinate even over this final task! He gets distracted by some of his helpers, who reason that he should take some time out. But then he becomes convinced the only thing he can do to get his work started is to murder Writer’s Block, and so he does, bloodily.
Is this what I have to do to get started again? What would it mean for me? Deleting my Facebook or Twitter? Back here in the non-Fables world, I’ll get over it.
Despite the tone of this entry, I’m actually doing OK with the current writing. My ideas are coming together in a shape that I think makes sense, and might even be interesting. I’m working on my literature review just now, and working out the best way to structure all the reading I’ve done is the tricky part.
(This has been incredibly indulgent and procrastinatory, maybe I do need to murder something…)