September 16, 2010


If I were to start this little series of writings about writings again, I'd call it "Just Write". However, I have a feeling that's been taken. Come to think of it, "The Way of the Writer" is probably taken as well . . . but that's just my own little title to let you know that this blog post is about writing and the creative life.

On a message board I frequent (yes, those things DO still exist) one post turned toward a person who had a blank page because he wasn't sure about how to draw a panel. There are other factors involved, but it got me thinking about the blank pages and the blank screens and the false concept of writer's block.

Yes, I believe it's a false concept. I may be wrong. And tomorrow I may change my belief. But today, just walk with me down this path . . .

Writer's block, in some ways, is just an excuse. An excuse not to move forward because I don't have just the right idea. Just the perfect line. Just the ideal word. Just this, just that . . . when really I need to just write.

My biggest project right now is essentially taking what could be a research paper/essay and turning it into a graphic novel. Make it interesting. Make it visual (or why make it a graphic novel at all?). And it's been a struggle.

One particular sequence really gave me some trouble. The twenty or so page sequence I'm working on right now. For a long time I just sat and looked at it. Tried to figure it out. Puzzled over how to make it pop. Nothing. I wanted to make it just right . . .

In the end, I had to just write. (Ugh . . . just typing THAT makes me feel a little ill . . . but I think I'm leaving it in, cheesy as it may be.)

So I just dove in. Wrote the sequence with what was the best idea I could come up with to present the information. Did the whole thing . . . and then, a couple days ago, while working at Borders, ten minutes before I had to pack up and leave so I could get to something in time . . . another idea struck me.

This new idea was eight thousand times better. This new idea allowed for the information to be presented visually and with some quirkiness and fun.

This new idea meant that the entire sequence needed to be rewritten.

But it's going to be SOOOOOoooooo much better. (Eight thousand times better.) If I hadn't gone ahead with things, and just forced myself to write that draft, even though I knew it wasn't what I wanted it to be, I never would have came upon the idea I ended up with.

So was that earlier draft lost work? Wasted time? No. Unlike staring at a blank screen, unlike staring at blank paper . . . creatively, I was working and engaged in a way that just staring and struggling would never have achieved.

Just write. Just draw. Just play. In the creative arts, and maybe in other things as well, sometimes you have to do it wrong to figure out how to do it right.

~ Ben

PS -- That cheese earlier . . . makes me thing I'm gonna have a grilled cheese for lunch, See? Yet another bad idea leading to a great idea!