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Slack Attack!

May 18, 2009

It has been brought to my attention that this blog is “suffering”.

Sad, but true, it has been languishing amidst a severe slack attack  (an attaque de slaque, as the French say) for some weeks now and despite my promise to get off my ass and work at it.  I once read a short essay by Will Self (the title of which I ruthlessly appropriated for my own purposes here) on the benefits and drawbacks of slacking off.  I recall Self’s assertion that the act of slacking was like a bungee cord during the descent of a bungee jump, it keeps stretching out until it eventually snaps back quickly, meaning the period of slacking is succeeded by a swift period of intense productivity. Self also referenced Nietzsche as a shameless slacker who in his later years was given to alluding to mighty volumes of his own work that he never actually got around to completing.

That essay had an unfortunate effect on me, one that I still labour under, namely; that I can piss about all I want and eventually that cord will snap back on its own and I’ll suddenly be sitting with a freshly composed novel or two in my lap.

I should instead heed the sagely advice of Brian K. Vaughn.

WRITE MORE, DO OTHER STUFF LESS.

That’s it. Everything else is meaningless. You can take all the classes in the world and read every book on the craft out there, but at the end of the day, writing is sorta like dieting. There are plenty of stupid fads out there and charlatans promising quick fixes, but if you want to lose weight, you have to exercise more and eat less. Period. Every writer has 10,000 pages of shit in them, and the only way your writing is going to be any good at all is to work hard and hit 10,001.

(And this isn’t just some tired cliche, I believe that’s a provable mathematical equation. I started writing five pages a day, every single day, when I began my senior year of high school. That means I hit 10,001 roughly a year after I graduated NYU, which was exactly when I pitched Y: THE LAST MAN to Vertigo. It took a lot of lousy writing to get there, but I’m glad I stuck with it. And don’t worry, if you were busy actually having a life in high school and college, it’s never too late to begin your march towards 10,001. Most writers don’t do their best work until they’re in their thirties and forties, anyway. Still, the clock is ticking, so maybe you old-timers should consider writing seven pages a day?)

Anyway, when people ask me for suggestions about writing, they’re usually asking how to make it more fun. Well, writing might be fun for some people, but for most of us, it’s an unholy nightmare. Writing is hard, lonely, frustrating work. I hate it more than just about anything in the world. Unfortunately, the thing I LOVE more than just about anything is HAVING WRITTEN, so I have to power through the misery to get to that sensation. For me, writing is like starting with six hours’ worth of hangover to enjoy a few minutes of feeling drunk. It’s a bizarre, unnatural way of life, and not everyone’s cut out for it, but if you’re born with this wonderful, terrible addiction, you’ll recognize it soon enough.

(Oh, and “writer’s block” is just another word for video games. If you want to be a writer, get writing, you lazy bastards.)

That guy started out as an English major with a highly original idea for a comic book and now has a day job as one of the principal writers on Lost. He also appears to be someone who shaves his head to cope with premature balding, prompting me to identify a kind of tragic kinship with the man.

I welcome being prodded and pushed in the right direction, incidentally, so thanks.

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