by Dear Jon
April 12, 2002
Sort 131_Dear Jon-Writer's Block.
[The Webmaster forewarns: In his response to the earnest letter below, Dear Jon has opted to take out his frustration on me by implying that I have some kind of evil control over anyone who submits articles to The Partial Observer. Needless to say, the very notion is absurd, and such public whining is undignified. He ultimately gets around to some useful advice, so I suggest skipping ahead to the paragraph after the numbered items. The Partial Observer regrets Dear Jon's neurotic ranting.]
ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:
Do you have a remedy for writer's block? I'd like to write an article for the PO, but I just can't get going.
So, you want to write for the PO, do you? You want to spin your words for the Webmaster. Only you don’t realize that as soon as you are caught in the threads, the Webmaster owns you. You spend dreary hours working without pay as the Webmaster slowly sucks the life out of your soul, and THEN insults you in the forums!
What you need, therefore, is not a “remedy” for writer’s block. You need an “excuse” for writer’s block. The best excuse I have for the Webmaster is, “Sorry, no actual letters showed up, so there is nothing to submit.” Another one works pretty well: “Sorry, all I got was fan mail. Nothing to submit.” Occasionally I have to resort to, “Sorry, the actual letters all suck. They either want to pick a fight with Dear Jon when they should be writing in the Forums, or, they are asking for real advice so they can actually improve their life. Nothing to submit.”
Your letter comes dangerously close to asking for advice to improve your life. However, we had no letters by Tuesday’s deadline, and the Webmaster gets awfully --how shall I put it: hungry? -- if two deadlines are missed in a row.
Another excuse I use is that “the server ate my column.” This actually happens. After hot coals were pressed against the arches of my feet by the Webmaster’s goons, I began using the Webmaster’s handy “Article Submission” form. I spent hours to carefully craft work of art in prose, and all because I forgot a “field” my submission was rejected. Than by hitting the “back” button I found a blank submission form, with my words irretrievably lost in cyberspace. Naturally, when the Webmaster sat at my computer and tried to repeat my version of events, the “car mechanic” effect set in. The Submission Form was retrievable even though fields were not completed. This only serves to prove that the Webmaster has dark powers.
Run, while you still can!
If you get stuck writing, you poor sap, here are some good excuses for writer’s block.
1. Ever since September 11 I am too preoccupied with keeping up to date on “Operation Enduring Freedom.”
2. I didn’t realize before September 11 how trivial and shallow I really was.
3. Since September 11, patriotism is “in.” Meaningful engagement of ideas through the medium of creative writing is “out.”
4. I am burning out on this whole September 11 thing. All people keep talking about is the “War on Terrorism” and the “Clash of Civilizations” and inconvenience at airports. Can’t we get over it already? I have plenty of stuff to write; just tell me when you’re ready for a change of subject, for crying out loud.
5. Write for the PO? Ha ha! I have a LIFE! And I am NOT going to let the Webmaster eat MY soul!
If you are determined to find a remedy for Writer’s Block, I suggest that the best way to stir the creative juices is to read excellent writing. You can find excellent writing weekly with columns by James Leroy Wilson. S.E. Shepherd covers the literary gamut with poetry, fiction, and commentary. Fantana lights up the forums with a desperately needed feminine point-of-view. We even have a whole novel on-line, and a cast of thousands with Casey White, Tim McGinnis, Everett Wilson, Kenneth the Menneth, Mark Johnson, and others whose names escape me at the moment and I am not using the online form so I don’t have time to look them up.
Rumor has it that some of these people even have lives outside of their deadlines.
The point is, you have something to say. The block comes because you are concerned about saying it perfectly. Realize that very few things come out right the first time, and then give yourself the freedom to say what you want to say anyway. The work of writing is not in coming up with “ideas” or “inspiration.” There are millions of ideas. To unlock those ideas, take a pad of paper and a pen (yes, they still make those) and simply write out your stream of consciousness. Before long one idea will discuss another, and you have the beginning of a column or a story or a poem. Don’t worry about that, keep the stream alive. That is not “work.” That is “play.” Think of that as the sketch that is done before a painting. The “work” of writing is in the refinement of ideas that already exist on paper, and then the polish of words.
If you absolutely cannot stand rejection, you may want to query the Webmaster first. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestion. For example, “I would like to review a new line of candy-bars. Would the PO be interested?” It turns out that the PO would be interested. If your column is too goofy for the PO, which will be hard to achieve, the Webmaster will let you know in a reply. I queried my idea for an advice column with the Webmaster first. I was in my second week before I realized I was trapped in a cyberweb from which there is no escape.
[The Webmaster responds: Dear Jon is, of course, free to leave the PO at any time. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!]
|PO BOOKS BY DEAR JON
Dear Jon Letters: Tips for Dating and Mating
Published July 21, 2008
Our advice humorist turns his attention and trademark wit to affairs of the heart in his first and very affordable book (only $8.95!).
Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke,
by Hal Evan Caplan.
A father learns from the wisdom of his toddler.