Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Murdered Mojo


“Help! My mojo has been murdered,” cries the withered writer, while the rain bats down and does its best to obscure the unpleasant sight.

The scream still echoes in the writer’s head and he knows that resuscitating ain’t gonna cut it. The paramedics come, plastic silhouettes that move in the dark. ‘I am sorry…’ they say and leave their silence, trailing on to deliver the bad news. The writer stays rooted to the spot with one question: ‘What happens now’? The abyss inside, where creativity used to be, remains silent.


Overkill, perhaps, those two paragraphs above are, but I felt the necessity to dramatize and fit a common scenario in as few words as possible. Writer’s block [this mischief maker’s more popular name] is an included bonus to every writer’s starting kit. What’s worse is that it ain’t optional. Before I start spitting critical assessment and analysis, I want to share some personal motivation that explains I am tackling this topic [beyond the obvious that this pleb with mere three years of dedicated writing has experienced enough on this topic to dare discuss it].

I had a near-utopian expectation that once 2009 retires from the calendar that 2010 will bring the much needed bird song and sunny meadows [much to Disney classics’ envy]. I had a plan and I felt motivated enough to make it happen. I wanted to read, write, review and broaden my socializing with other talented people, all the while managing real life responsibilities. That actually had the potential to work out, until January third, when a rather unpleasant event took place. An author, who did not agree on a review I gave to his, decided that the gloves were off and that I had to get what I deserve. In his mind that included being stepped on and ridiculed over the Internet and on various venues, where I uploaded content.

Perhaps, I didn’t properly explain why I couldn’t finish his book and deserved his wrath, even though I hardly think it’s an appropriate reaction. But when one comes across a book that simply does not compute with you as a reader, how long can an argument be?

Either way, the ultimate weapon this person had to undo me creatively for about two weeks was my language. Yes, English is not my native language. I bet that all Americans, Brits and Assies, who are on speaking terms with grammar, can spot sentence structure issues, poor word choices or just expressions that ring the alarm that something is off. I try my best, but a person left to his own devices can only do so much.

But I’m side tracking. When that author hit home with his comments on my language issues, it was like the blue screen of death. Come January, I had planned on dusting off an old idea and write the novel that suits it best, but after that person’s three day e-mail and comment fest, I stared at the screen and on the place where my story used to be I saw failure, failure and yes, failure again. At the time this was happening, I really believed that this was it. I was undone before I came close to discovering what I enjoyed writing most, what I could write at my best and where that naughty muse of mine would take me next. It was a big bummer, having ideas and making dreams, while my mojo lay dead and my muse chalked its outline on the side of the street. That’s sad.

However, it turns out my mojo is Mister Immortal [I kid you not, there’s a Marvel hero and yes, the guy is immortal] and sprang back from the dead or crawled from his shallow grave, if you are fan of realism. What happened is that I started scribbling down sentences and phrases on a new short story [Stalker X] and the flow increased to a brook of paragraphs, then on to a stream of pages and you get the idea. My mojo was healed and I was working again, on a pure creative level. My only enemy now remains the constant lack of time.

So, what happened?

Life did. January’s off the chain as far as my schedule’s concerned. I am in exam session, so I’m usually over the books and then there are the exams as events [horror rollercoaster rides really]. I decided to host a theme month on my review month, so I need to make daily input, coordinate guest posts and monitor interviews. I’ve to read, both books for guest reviews and comics for that themed month. There is also that side project for a competition that has to do with extensive research and the deadline is looming over. I barely noticed when my day took off and when it ended, so I never had the time to repeat the unpleasant moment over and over again in my head like I usually use to. And when the insult can’t find a crack to settle in, it is unable to change your perception about your writing.

The ‘writer’s block’ is just that, a negative perception about the value of one’s own writing, a self-imposed deprecation that writers accept as valid truth. Just as the ‘mojo’ is the perception that raises value about one’s writing. Change hits a writer’s inner world harder than it does the average’s person’s world. My conclusion is to get busy fast, when the waters get rough. Yes, I know that you are losing time, turning your back to the problem. But it will take way less to bury the event that caused your mojo’s death than it would be to try and write, when you keep repeating to yourself that what you are doing is shit.

But I never said to give up. Sure, hide in reality and do something you put off doing [I say put end to rampaging house to your bookshelves or working space], but do not be afraid to get back to what you are born to do [assuming that all writers cannot go even one day without the thought to sit down and write cross their mind]. However, I’m advising to redirect your mojo to a different project all together. Having writer’s block is a trauma, which is similar to post traumatic stress. Returning to the project you were working on, when everything detonated in your inner world, will only revive the bitter taste in your mouth. That fear [that if you keep going, you’ll eventually prove that in the end you really are worth nothing, despite the blood, tears and sweat] will resurface and thrive. Clean the slate. Move on. Start small. Daydream. Brainstorm. Let your muse eclipse the bad moment with a new kernel for you care after and write. In that sense the writer’s block is not the blue screen of death that erases everything after a certain point.

To summarize, these are the three things I learned about writer block and mojo [either dead or alive]:

1) Writer’s block and the mojo are perceptions; totally subjective and not always spot on about the quality of writing.

2) Writer’s block can be barricaded outside the writer’s inner world, when the writer takes the necessary measures and sweats in other areas in his life.

3) Writer’s block is connected with a project and not with the act of writing [unless you allow it to connect with your process in its entirety], so it can be left behind, if the writer pursues a different project.

Hope it has been helpful. Comments are welcome.


Charles Gramlich said...

That's too bad the writer reacted that way. That's one reason I just hardly ever review books by living authors that I don't like. It's often not worth the hassle. On the other hand, I just had somebody review an anthology I had a story in and say they hated my story most of all and couldn't even finish it. Egads! But I was polite to him anyway.

Harry Markov said...

Yeah, I am thinking about adding the same policy, but if some book will waste my time only to be unreadable, I feel the need to tell others that it didn't work for me.