My grandfather was a security guard. He worked weekends, holidays, and nights when temperatures plummeted below zero and frozen winds blasted the empty parking lots. He never said, “I don’t feel like guarding the warehouse tonight. I’m blocked.”
My grandmother babysat. She never said, “I’m not watching those brats today. I’m blocked.”
When I spoke at Fort Lauderdale High School, a student asked, “What do you do about writer’s block?”
“Writer’s block doesn’t exist,” I said. “It’s an indulgence.”Writing is a job, and working writers cannot afford writer’s block. It’s a luxury. Pros know that inspiration won’t strike like lightning. We can’t wait for it to hit us. We have to write.
I wish I had a dollar for every day I didn’t feel like dragging my sorry carcass to the computer. I could retire.
But I write because it’s my job. Even on the worst days, I love being a writer.
Many former newspaper reporters become mystery writers, including Michael Connelly, Kris Montee (PJ Parrish), and me. We’re trained to respect deadlines. Writing is our work and we sit down and do it.Early in my newspaper career, I told my editor, “I’m blocked. I can’t write this story.”
“Write something,” he said, waving the blank layouts. “We have pages to fill. We’re a newspaper, not a high school theater program: We can’t leave blank spaces on the page with ‘COMPLIMENTS OF A FRIEND.’ ”
Some days, the words flow, gushing in fertile streams. I feel alive and electric. Other days the words trickle out like water in a rusty, clogged pipe.
But I still write.
What do I do when the words don’t come?
I remember what Daniel Keyes, who wrote Flowers for Algernon, said at a speech:
“When I feel blocked I start typing – anything,” he said. “It doesn’t have to make sense: ababababsjsjsjfjfjfhhshshshkaka.
“Then I start typing words. Any words. The first words that come to mind.
“Next I start writing sentences. Again, they don’t have to make sense. But I keep on typing and eventually they do make sense and I’ve started writing. I may throw out ninety percent of what I wrote that day.
“But I wrote.”
You can, too.