FAQ 18dec12: An Angle Of Attack On Writer’s Block

Sir, let me start by saying you are awesome. Thank you very much for giving Transmetropolitan to the masses. My question to you is this: How best do you deal with writer’s/artistic block and what tips would you give anyone going through such annoyances?

mcchubbin

 

I don’t believe there is such a thing.  There is only being unable or unwilling to write the thing that’s in front of you, and, consciously or unconsciously, looking for ways to not write it.  Some people on the internet argue with me about this sometimes, or denounce me from the cheap seats.  All the fucks I give: see if you can detect them.

The trick — and it’s imperfect and can take a while, but — is simply to write something else.  Don’t let your hands go cold.  Don’t let yourself stop thinking.  Shift to something different.  I think it was Robert Silverberg who used to do his (type)written correspondence on bad days, and then “trick” himself into writing by slipping manuscript paper into the machine once his fingers were flying.

It’s about letting your backbrain chew on the problems while your frontbrain is amused by the new and shiny things.  Find an essay to write.  Do some flash fiction, or a short story, or a novelette about dancing gravediggers written in the style of Cormac McCarthy.  An audiobook about dirigible vampires who shit sexy babies down chimneys.  Whatever.  I’ve read of several writers from eras past who would type out passages from their favourite writers, to get a feeling of what it’s like to make sentences like that.

Write something else.  Anything else.  Either you’ll solve the problem in the background, or get the taste back for what you’re stuck on — or, guess what, maybe that whole thing was dead and you were just shoving electrodes up it to make it twitch in an awful semblance of life the whole time.  I mean, that happens.  It doesn’t mean you were blocked, it means that you were zapping a big stinky corpse with all your electricity and wondering why it wasn’t sitting up and calling you Mummy.  It was dead.  Bury it and never speak of what you did to it again.

You’re a writer — or an artist — or you’re not.  It sounds harsh, but, seriously, not everyone’s wired for this stupid life.  If you think you are, then you have to write around the block.  Anything that takes your fancy.  Just get words happening.  The rest will follow.  Best of luck.

FAQ 11dec12: Writing On An iPad

I’ve got one for you, actually, though it’s a bit pedantic, I suppose. You said you wrote GUN MACHINE (which is fucking fantastic) on your iPad. With what, howfore, and why? I find jumping between an open Pages doc and Safari a royal pain, for instance, and given the amount of research you did, I’m wondering how you negotiated it. Also: keyboard? program? And any other details you care to share. Me, I’m lost without my laptop.

ruckawriter

Greg Rucka, everybody.  When you pass out from stark boredom three lines into this one, blame him.

Okay, so, yes, I did write a chunk of GUN MACHINE on the iPad.  I did it in a couple of different ways, depending on my mood.  To write material on your iPad, you need:

*  A keyboard case.  I have the Logitech Zagg Keyboard Case for iPad, which is a nice keyboard inside a padded aircraft-grade aluminium shell, that connects via Bluetooth.  It is very good.

*  Dropbox.  Dropbox Dropbox Dropbox.  Seriously.

*  I have two basic word programs on the iPad that both pretty much do the same thing.  PlainText and iA Writer.  I still can’t decide which one I like best.  Probably PlainText.  They both have their annoyances.  But what they do is create (inside your Dropbox) a plain old .txt file.  If I was writing something that I needed to check the research on later, or something that I felt was going to need a polish later, I’d just bang it down in PlainText.  Writing in .txt makes me take another look at it before it goes into the manuscript.

*  For actual finished work, I open Quickoffice HD Pro, which uses and creates Microsoft Word doc files, which is what I submit manuscripts in.  Again, it’s seamless with Dropbox.  I can write on the iPad in the main manuscript with full comfort.

*  When I’m mobile with iPad-only and I am stuck for research but want to get a thing done — well, I can simply keep Quickoffice running in the background and launch the Evernote app, which is where my book research lives, organised by folder.  Or I can launch it on my iPhone, for that matter, because where I go, the phone goes, and when I’n writing it’s usually propped next to the work machine anyway, picking up messages, playing a podcast and/or running a news stream of some kind.  (Twitter, or Reedlines, or similar.)

*  Why do I do this?  I’ve always hated lugging laptops around, and have always looked for efficient mobile solutions.  I had one of those early Asus netbooks.  I had a Treo.  Hell, in the 90s, I had a Handspring Visor.  And I figured that since the iPad was light, instant-on, built for wifi and supposedly fucking magical, I should be able to make it work as a mobile work solution without having to screw around with laptops and crappy batteries and all the rest of it.  In the mornings, I just grab the iPad and case and go out into the back garden and sit at the table and am ready to go.  I go back to the office, wake up the laptop, and thanks to Dropbox everything I’ve done is already there.  It works for me.