Graham Greene once said that every writer must have ‘a sliver of ice’ in their heart. He was noticing—and being appalled by—his own capacity for detached observation of other people’s grief even while offering them sympathy. But we writers are a cunning pack. We have co-opted this saying to excuse all manner of horrible behaviour on the grounds that we are artists. I give myself permission to ransack your misery for copy. Of course I do! I have a sliver of ice in my heart! You surely don’t expect me to be a nice person. Niceness is for the untalented. I’m far too busy working on my imaginary world to have anything left over for good behaviour in the real one.
Well, I’m certainly far too busy writing my novel to write my blog, anyway. A puzzling utterance to normal people, but immediately transparent to fellow novelists, who are thinking, ‘Aha, she’s blocked.’ There are writers, rather tiresome ones if you want my opinion (I assume you do, or you wouldn’t be here), who believe there’s no such thing as writer’s block, just lazy writers. After all, they chortle, you don’t hear about plumbers with plumber’s block, do you? Which begs the question, have they never had plumbers in? Do they not know from experience that a plumber may start work on your bathroom, then go away for three months leaving you with a gaping hole in the floor and half a bidet because ‘they are waiting for the tiles to arrive’?
Plumbers get blocked all right. They get blocked for similar reasons to writers: if they don’t have the right stuff to work with. If they realise they’ve put the taps on backwards. If they drill through the hot water pipe. If they paint themselves into a corner part-way through an immensely complex not to say baroque metaphor and… Ah, sod it.
There are simply times when you need to leave alone. Wait for the hand-painted Spanish tiles to arrive. For the plaster to dry out. And in the meantime, get on with other odd jobs. Like posting a blog.
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