Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The so-called tyranny of the blank page

The faculty fiction writers' group just left, and one of the last things some stragglers and I discussed was the ridiculous notion that writers are supposed to sit in front of blank pages or blinking computer cursors and suffer. What kind of self-flagellator does that? We're big fans of getting out into life, notebook in hand, and doing or discovering something worth writing about. Stumped for something to write? Then grab a notebook or a digital audio recorder and go to the farmer's market, the waiting room at the county jail, a rodeo, or the local rowers' boathouse.

It baffles us that how-to-write books often discuss the writer's office as a necessary dungeon, and the ritual before blank paper with attendant suffering as some inherent part of the creative process. As if! All of those horrid lines about gluing oneself to the chair or chaining oneself to the desk. Twaddle! Guilt-producing gahr-bage.

This fiction group is amazing and I love it. Booklab has ten groups for scholarly writers, and one for fiction as a fun middle-of-the-week respite. Everyone is focusing on different kinds of things. We dove into literary magazines today, with actual copies on hand. I did a short presentation on The Missouri Review, to set up a model, and then Chris took a copy of Ploughshares to discuss next week. Matt walked out with a copy of VQR, which he'll study and dissect for us two weeks from now.

We do not believe in butts in chairs until we know why we're there and what we have to say. We believe in butts out in nature, in the big, bad city, or on the ranch, cowboy. We believe in writers as actors, participants, observers, creators, anything but inmates in office-prisons.

Weird chairs above from

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