This essay also appears in my short book TEN ESSAYS ON WRITING. If you like this essay, you can be notified when I post new ones by joining The Friends of Bain.|
I’ll say it again: I don’t believe in writer’s block.
I used to. But I haven’t for at least twenty years or so.
Writer’s block is, for one thing, unprofessional. For another, it’s an affect, a pose. It’s something you tell your friends, your teacher, fellow barflies, every stranger who will listen. It’s for comfortable people who want to appear to be struggling, tortured artists. Writer’s block is for the effete, the lazy, the inexperienced.
Writer’s block is a luxury, bought by those who can afford it.
Writer’s block is, in short, an excuse.
What do I believe in?
I do believe in procrastination. I most heartily believe in that.
But not writer’s block.
I also believe in getting stuck.
I believe in being out of ideas.
I believe in feeling uninspired.
I believe in feeling down.
All of that.
But I don’t believe in writer’s block.
***Here’s what I tell my students who claim they have writer’s block.
Write about what you’re writing about.
They look at me in apathy, confusion, or, worst of all, horror.
And so I repeat it: Write about what you’re writing about.
***It always works.
Spend a paragraph, three, five, a page, five pages, fifty, writing about the project at hand.
We’re talking freewriting in every sense of the word.
Bad grammar. No attention to punctuation. No attention to capitalization, style, form, genre. No attention, even, to what might actually work, to what might possibly make sense, in context.
Don’t let the keys stop clacking, don't let the pen stop moving.
Write down shitty ideas. Write down jejune stuff you’re angry at yourself for even daring to suggest.
Then write some more.
Write about what you’re writing about.
***This is what I do when I’m stuck:
I open a new Word document.
I write random crap about what I’m writing about.
Most important of all: I totally forgive myself for anything that might wind up on the page.
After two minutes or twenty or two-hundred, an answer finally crystallizes.
***I thank the Muses.
And then I go on to that day’s word count on the project at hand.
It always works.
***My students look at me in horror because ... how dare I suggest they don’t simply add words to the project at hand, even if their minds can't come up with the words?
Typing time is valuable, man!
How dare I suggest that they waste valuable typing time gathering ideas, brainstorming, woolgathering, instead of slathering on the next load of random required page length? Even if that random page length sucks or isn't readily forthcoming to their already stressed psyches?
Typing should equal production, right?
***Here’s the thing:
It does. Typing does equal production. That’s the entire point.
First of all, just the physical act of idea-focused typing gets the creative juices flowing.
It simply does.
Second of all, even if a focused freewriting session doesn’t come to fruition (which never happens), I still save it. Every single one. (Words
actually take up more space longhand than they do on your hard drive.)
Then, whenever I’m stuck for an idea, I look over the freewritings.
There’s always a germ of an idea there.
Or, if not, there’s always another freewriting to be done.
(If you have a life free of ongoing concerns to freewrite about … dude!)
If an idea seems even potentially worthy, but hasn’t quite gelled just yet, I write about what I might be writing about…
Seriously - using this method, I am never at loss for an idea for perhaps more than a minute or two.
Writer’s block is simply about not wanting to deal with whatever you’re writing about.
When in doubt, write about what you’re writing about.
I'm going to start posting things here again.|
If you've forgotten who I am, or if you don't know in the first place, this is a great place to find out!
Here's my current bio:
David Bain is also the author of GRAY LAKE: A NOVEL OF CRIME AND SUPERNATURAL HORROR and DEATH SIGHT: A WILL CASTLETON NOVEL and several short story collections including SHADOWS, WHISPERS, SHIVERS and NIGHT WRITING and DARKER CORRIDORS. (These are also collected in a massive, 700+ page, 50+ story omnibus, UNTIL YOU CAN SCREAM NO MORE.) He is the co-author, with C. Dennis Moore (author of the #1 Amazon Horror bestseller THE THIRD FLOOR) of the short rock n' roll horror novel BAND OF GYPSIES and the collection TERROR IS OUR TRADE. He teaches writing at a community college in Indiana and is the author of the small book TEN SHORT ESSAYS ON WRITING.
Current Music: "Shot Reverse Shot" - Jack Johnson
TERROR IS OUR TRADE, a tome in which C. Dennis Moore and I trade horror stories back and forth - one from each author's five collections - is scheduled to be free as part of Amazon's KDP Select program from Wednesday, March 13, through Sunday, March 17.
You'll also find the first mention (other than this one...) of a new novel we're working on, combining his fictional world and mine...
We've also included samples from his awesome haunted house novel THE THIRD FLOOR - a Kindle horror bestseller - my novel GRAY LAKE, and the first several scenes of our collaborative horror novella BAND OF GYPSIES.
This is, frankly, a great way to get to know our work.
Do we have any compunctions about offering ten of our stories for free? Nope, none at all. I've always looked at free ebooks as ... well, the library edition. Countless times I've checked a book out of the library only to fall in love with it and buy a copy for home - often purchasing more by the same author the next time I visit the brick and mortar store or Amazon.
Similarly, I've gone to author readings, heard a story for free, and bought a half dozen books based on the one entertaining tale or segment. The author enjoys doing the reading, and, if she's smart, loves having been read whether you bought the book or got it from the library or used bookstore or borrowed it from a friend. And a smart author will also gladly sign the ragged used paperback because, hey, you're going to show it to a friend who might buy a new copy and tell their friends, etc.
Exactly the same idea when it comes to giving TERROR IS OUR TRADE away. Yes, it's a sampler, but there are ten full stories, 70,000 words of fiction - no skimping, no excerpts (other than from our novels, of course).
There's plenty more where these come from - and Dennis and I are working daily, alone and together, to bring you more scares, more thrills, more action and oddities. Give us a try. You know you've been wanting to! And now you can. For free. No strings attached!
Um, well, this is the internet, so best I can do is offer you a virtual beer.
But this clocks in at 15,500 words. And it kicks ass. And it will be yours sooner this week rather than later...
Pre-order ebook for $1.99 (Please specify e-reader) There will also be a 130+ page print edition.
Legend says Jimi Hendrix forgot the master tapes for Axis: Bold as Love in a London taxi.
Now, C. Dennis Moore, author of the Amazon horror bestseller THE THIRD FLOOR and REVELATIONS and David Bain, author of GRAY LAKE and DEATH SIGHT, bring you the true story behind the disappeared recordings, involving Jimi's ghost, soul-hopping alien demons, a shoot-out unlike any you've ever read before, and visions of the real Electric Ladyland.
Writing: Art or business?|
Both, of course.
If you’re a writer, most likely you didn’t have much choice in the matter. If you’re a writer, the signs were there early on, and it was simply a matter of discovering your craft, then taking off on the lifelong journey of honing it. Maybe you were smart and got a medical or business or law degree on the side to support yourself. Maybe you were lucky and have a supportive spouse. Maybe you were neither and are struggling at three other part-time jobs, squeezing your words in edgewise. But in any case, you probably didn’t have much of a choice about the “writer” part. You’re driven to do it, and you feel it’s at least one of the major reasons God put you on this earth.
But in your heart you still ask yourself: Art or business? For the love or for the money?
You’ve had dreams of Stephen King or J.K. Rowling cash. You’re inspired by J.A. Konrath and Dean Wesley Smith. So, business.
But you love Kafka, who starved in a garret. You don’t understand why Charles L. Grant, a grand stylist, master of so many genres, his prose both prolific and beautiful, died without health insurance. You feel somehow cleaner, emptied, exalted, in touch, having written. So, art.
What it comes down to:
You’re working on your novel for art’s sake. Because you’re driven to write it.
An editor emails on Friday, says I’ve got a last-minute slot in my monster anthology for a 4,000-word story about goblins. Here is a paragraph describing the abilities of my goblins. I need this story no later than Monday morning.
So you abandon your novel, you write the story, done by midnight, Sunday.
You go back to the novel Monday morning, the novel which might never sell, but which has been nagging at you to write it for months - the idea has pitbull jaws and won’t let you go no matter how hard you try to shake it off.
Is the goblin story hackwork because you wrote it quick, for cash?
Even though the idea wasn’t there an hour earlier, even though it wasn’t an idea that had been demanding to be written, it combines elements of your life, observations you’ve made, things that you’ve been ruminating about, and it does so with a respectable amount of success.
A writer learns to trust the muse. Trust her without fail.
You became a writer because she was ever-present, pushing the art; but she will also faithfully provide when it comes to business. You don’t need to train her; she is the one who trains you - trains you to trust her.
Art can be enough to sustain the work.
But, obviously, most of us also seek success.
And success is mostly luck.
But, with all that said, this is also true: good business makes its own luck.
The story above is true. It happened, God, almost a decade ago now.
The novel is my crime/horror novel GRAY LAKE. I wrote it for art. It was almost published by a small press before said small press went under. Every agent I sent it to said, "So close, but no cigar. No one's buying horror anymore."
The story is “Those Who Can, Help.” I wrote it for business. (And the story still earns me a little, most months, both as an individual $.99 ebook and as part of my collection NIGHT WRITING.)
The editor of the anthology was C. Dennis Moore, artist, businessman.
At the time, back in spring of 2004, I only knew Dennis through a story he’d submitted to something I’d edited. I believe I had, in fact, turned his story down. But I must have done something right in that rejection, because, out of the blue, he asked me for the goblin story for THE BOOK OF MONSTERS (which is apparently still available and selling reasonably well, even though the publishing company (Scrybe - avoid like the plague!!!) hasn’t paid Dennis or anyone else in literally years … hmmm - seriously, if you want the story, please don't buy it from this scummy publisher).
Being the absolute bastard that he is, Dennis made it a competition, no less. He also solicited a goblin story from at least two other authors. Mine apparently won out.
But here’s what I’m saying about business, about trusting the muse:
I quit the novel for a weekend, accepted the challenge, business first.
And it’s paid off in so many ways.
Yes, I wrotes me my story and I gots paid. Gotta gets paid. But, as a result of that story, and various emails about it, Dennis has become one of my best online friends. The muse knew what she was doing by working with me on that "business" project. For almost a decade now, we’ve shared almost daily emails about, well, everything from music to the major concerns of our lives. There’s not much I wouldn’t be able to tell him.
And many years of that decade have been lean in terms of writing success.
We were there for mutual support because of that business decision I made that long ago Friday night. This support has been invaluable. I would have missed out on so much had I been in it just for art.
And, at last, Dennis has, lately, started finding some major success, especially with his latest novel, THE THIRD FLOOR, a killer haunted house tale which has topped the Amazon horror charts. I’m chasing at his heels, with Kindle sales that are promising, but what I’d call midlist at best. (Do I begrudge Dennis his success? Hardly. Even though we’ve never met in person, we’ve carried each other through some extraordinary lows, and he deserves every sale he gets.)
So, all this past decade, Dennis and I have talked genre, we’ve talked art, we’ve talked business - we’ve talked writing. And now he and I have come full circle with a couple collaborations: one for art, one for business.
The one we’ve done for business is already available. In TERROR IS OUR TRADE, a full book-length (70,000-word) collection of short stories and novellas, Dennis and I trade stories back and forth - we realized we each have five short story collections. In this book, we each included one story from each of our collections. It’s an Amazon exclusive for now, and at just $1.99 it's less than you'd pay for many lesser collections. I think our motivations are pretty transparent - two names on the spine of the book introduces us to each other’s readers, and if they like a story from a particular collection, maybe they’ll buy the collection. Business.
As for art, well, Dennis and I are both rabid music fans. Nearly every day for the past decade we’ve discussed everything from classical musicians to some kid one of us found who recorded this awesome mp3 in his bedroom. And we agree wholeheartedly that Jimi Hendrix was perhaps the most inspiring, unique and revolutionary musician of the twentieth century. No one was quite as completely, out-of-the-blue alien as Jimi.
Then, one night about a year ago we started musing on a collaboration with a music theme. Combining some of our discussions with a dream I had way back in college, I sent Dennis the opening paragraphs of a story, just asking what he thought of it. He responded with some ideas. I asked him to write them up. The collaboration which resulted in our forthcoming novella BAND OF GYPSIES resulted. It’s a musing on the true fate of the first master tapes of Jimi’s album Axis: Bold as Love, which legend says he forgot in a London taxi. To date, the tapes have never been found.
Will it sell? Some, I expect, but I doubt it’s going to rival THE THIRD FLOOR.
We wrote it for fun. For art.
Art is, after all, what the business of writing’s all about, right?
|» BAND OF GYPSIES cover and Tandem $.99 Kindle Ebook Sale!|
Celebrating the forthcoming release of our collaborative novella BAND OF GYPSIES: A DARK ROCK N' ROLL FANTASY, C. Dennis Moore and I are discounting some of our $2.99 Kindle ebooks to $.99 for a limited time! The items we're putting on sale include two horror novels - my GRAY LAKE and his THE THIRD FLOOR - and our full-length horror story collections - my NIGHT WRITING and his (quickly forthcoming) THE DICHOTOMY OF MONSTERS. That's upwards of 300,000 words of horror for four bucks!
|» THE THIRD FLOOR update...|
You know that novel by friend and sometime cowriter C. Dennis Moore, his new haunted house novel, THE THIRD FLOOR, that I was pimping a post or two back? It's been slowly climbing Amazon's hot 100 in the horror category all day - currently at #84!
|» Two Weird Things I've Seen Recently|
Two rather bizarre instances in the last couple days:|
1) We went to a Flat Top Grill on Saturday night. I went to get the car to pull it up to the curb. My wife and daughter waited inside. I went back in to get them. It’s pretty late, not many patrons, couples at three or four tables. Guy at a table very close to us – he and the female get up. They’d seemed like normal types, both a little chubby, kicked back to the point of almost lounging. As he leaves, he picks up his glass of water, holds his hand out straight, pours his water all over the table and laughs and leaves. We hadn’t noticed any particular altercations with the staff or anything like that. He just acted as if he’d suddenly had this hilarious idea. Very strange and sorta unsettling.
2) I turn a corner at Wal-Mart, and in an otherwise empty aisle this scraggly, tweaker-looking chick who doesn’t see me finishes emptying one of those spray bottles of whipped cream into her mouth and chucks the empty under the shelving. Then she gets back behind her cart and, seeing me, goes wide-eyed and tries to act like she doesn’t have puffy chipmunk cheeks. I about L’edMAO!
|» THE THIRD FLOOR - A New Haunted House Novel by C. Dennis Moore|
Hey everyone! Check out my buddy C. Dennis Moore's new haunted house novel THE THIRD FLOOR!
Hell House. The Amityville Horror. The Haunting of Hill House.
Horror author C. Dennis Moore invites you to the newest haunted house on the block, a place so mean, even in a town where strange is the norm, the stories surrounding this house are legend. The problem is they’re all true.
THEIR NEW HOME IS OUT TO GET THEM
Welcome to Angel Hill, Missouri, a town that shot blood from the ground at its own groundbreaking. There are only two roads in or out of Angel Hill, and everything within those borders is subject to the whims of reality. Those who grew up here are immune to the town's peculiarities. But Jack and Liz have just moved here, and for their young son, Joey, it's almost like coming home again.
As the Kitches settle into their new home, a large abandoned house in need of a lot of TLC, Angel Hill welcomes them the only way it knows how. Footsteps in the middle of the night. Voices on the phone. Their big empty house wasn't so empty after all. There's a presence, and it's growing stronger. And angrier.
DOES MADNESS LIVE ON AFTER DEATH?
A hulking figure stalks the halls while childlike voices whisper in mourning. And there's something unexplainable happening to Joey. His hair is shorter now, and his eyes . . . they didn't used to be that color, did they? And that birthmark on his neck looks more like a scar every day. Jack doesn't want to believe his own eyes, but for Liz the threat is all too real, and it's closing in.
From the invisible shapes under the sheets, the eyes she feels on her constantly, and the banging coming from the third floor . . . is that something trying to get in? Or something wanting out? Welcome to Angel Hill.
C. Dennis Moore is the author of REVELATIONS and “The Man in the Window” as well as over 60 published stories in the speculative fiction genres. THE THIRD FLOOR is based in part on his real experiences in the house on which this novel is based. His horror fiction has appeared most recently in VILE THINGS, WHAT FEARS BECOME, DARK HIGHWAYS, DARK HIGHLANDS 2 and DEAD BAIT 3. In the review of his first short story collection, TERRIBLE THRILLS, CEMETERY DANCE MAGAZINE called him “an author worth keeping an eye on.”
|» Interview at Myriad Spheres|
Author Michael K. Rose interviewed me over here at Myriad Spheres, just in time for today's official release of my new novel DEATH SIGHT.|