Wild crush + writer’s block = bad combo

Madame Weebles —  May 29, 2012 — 51 Comments

Many bloggers have shared their experiences with the Writing Process. The writer’s block. The procrastination. The dilemma about where to go with a plot or a character. The battle with characters who start going in directions you weren’t expecting. The back-and-forth between “My God, this paragraph is magnificent. I am a fantastic writer!” and “All of my writing sucks ass.”

I feel your pain.

I don’t know much about the specific agonies involved in writing fiction or poetry because I haven’t done either of them since college. But I know it can be slow and agonizing work. You have to keep track of a lot of things I don’t have to worry about: characters, settings, plot development, etc. I take my hat off to all of you.

My writing is historical non-fiction, which brings its own kind of hell. Not worse than that of the fiction writers or poets, just different. Some of my challenges are probably similar to those experienced by historical fiction writers or anyone else who has to drape their content over a factual framework.

For too long, historical writing had an unfortunate reputation as being mind-numbingly dry, dusty collections of names, dates, and places. Fortunately, over the past 20 years or so, many writers have admirably demonstrated that history is full of all kinds of juicy, exciting tales, complete with adventure, mystery, intrigue, and naughty bits. There are heroes, villains, dirtbags, sluts, idiots, geniuses, and hot guys and gals. And the truth is often stranger than fiction.

My particular interest is in writing about people and events that nobody’s ever heard about. Even the people I’ve written about in this blog—most of their stories aren’t often told. I like the idea of “resurrecting” people who have been lost to history. I care about them because of who they were, what they accomplished, how they lived their lives, what they left behind. I want to do them justice.

Which brings me to my challenge at the moment. See, I’m writing a biographic piece on this guy. Perhaps you remember him.

Robert Cornelius wasn’t just a dreamily handsome face rivaling that of Pierce McKennon or Rupert Brooke; he was a brilliant and innovative guy. And except for a lame entry in Wikipedia and some other random blurbs about him, there is absolutely nothing out there about him. When I discovered that he was all but forgotten, I knew I had to write about him.

As you might have suspected, I’m hugely biased when it comes to Mr. Robert Cornelius. I feel like I’m back in high school, getting all tongue-tied and freaked out at the idea of talking to a cute guy. So when I sit down to write, I get all nervous and can’t think of anything. Or I babble for a few pages before realizing that I really haven’t said much of anything worthwhile. And then I panic. Here’s a sample of the dialogue that takes place between me and my brain:

Judgmental Brain of Madame Weebles: Dude, WTF? You’re going to rewrite that, aren’t you??

Madame Weebles: Why, is it really bad?

Judgmental Brain of Madame Weebles: He’s going to think you’re an idiot. And it’s not interesting. You make him sound boring. He’ll be insulted. And you need to rewrite this whole section too.

Madame Weebles: What’s wrong with it?

Judgmental Brain of Madame Weebles: It’s terrible. It reads as if you originally wrote it in English, then translated it into Chinese, then translated it back into English. I can practically hear him rolling his eyes at you.

Madame Weebles: Okay, fine, I’ll tinker with it some more.

Judgmental Brain of Madame Weebles: Also, what the hell are you wearing? This is what you wear when you write about him? Seriously? Put on something decent, for crying out loud. Fix your hair. And maybe put on some lipstick. Wait, what is that, is that food in your teeth??

Madame Weebles: Oops. It’s a poppy seed. What does it matter? He can’t see me.

Judgmental Brain of Madame Weebles: How do you know? He could be hovering over us right this minute, thinking, “Boy, I wish a better, more attractive writer were working on my biography. Just my luck I get one who doesn’t even check her teeth before writing about me.” Do you want him to think that?

Madame Weebles: No, of course not!

Judgmental Brain of Madame Weebles: Hmmm, what’s that on your chin? Shit, woman, you’re getting a pimple. That’s it, shut it down. We can’t write like this. There is no way I’m letting you write about him when you have a zit on your face.

Madame Weebles: Um, okay. I guess.

So there it is. The anxieties of talking to a crush combined with writer’s block all in one. My palms are getting sweaty just thinking about it.

All I know is, after I finally finish writing this biography, I’m looking for someone less attractive to write about.

51 responses to Wild crush + writer’s block = bad combo

  1. 

    Ha ha ha. Judgmental Brain of Madame Weebles needs to put a sock in it.

  2. 

    HAHAHAHAHAHA

    You kill me! Judgmental Brain of Madame Weebles!!!!

    Wish mine would shut up too

  3. 

    My friend, someday soon you will muster up the nerve to talk to him and I will stand in the corner watching with the excitement of a true high school sidekick. You know, in my own way.

  4. 

    I think he’d probably be pretty forgiving of things like poppy seeds in the teeth. He did, after all, live in an age before deodorant, dental floss, and fruity shampoos. He might be so overwhelmed by how good you smell that he won’t even notice that you haven’t brushed your teeth since lunch.

  5. 

    I think it’s time to sit down and tell JBOMW the truth: hot dead guys are just like hot live guys, only a little more laid back (or laid flat, as the case may be). As long as some chick’s talking about them, they’re happy. If the chick happens to be saying something flattering, so much the better.

    Robert Cornelius thinks you’re smokin’ hot. (And he likes poppy seeds. Trust me on this.)

  6. 

    I so feel your pain, especially the berating thing when it comes to writing. I tell myself plenty of times just how much I suck at it; even been known to cry a little. Looking forward to reading more about your fantasy historical guy; after all, you do dig those hot dead guys, MW. :).

    • 

      You have one of those judgmental brains too, eh? It ain’t fun. But I can tell you that your writing does NOT, in fact, suck. Not from what I’ve read on your blog, that’s for sure.

  7. 

    Oh, yes, the internal voice that insists everything I write is worthless tripe. Know it well. I remind myself that every other writer has the little “you’re a piece of doo-doo” voice. And, now you’ve reminded me! Thanks.

    • 

      It’s true, I think we all have it, and it rears its ugly head more often than we’d like. I’d like to put a gag order on mine but so far it hasn’t listened.

  8. 

    I love the conversation between judgmental brain and Mme. Weebles — funny and true! I think it will all iron itself out if you block out the noise and keep on writing. You could write and write and write, then go back and sculpt away. This character needs to be fleshed out — I’m interested. The last historical non-fiction book that I read was The Island at the Center of the World — I thought of it when you talked about how writers have made these stories more interesting in the last 20 years — it was a great read. Your skill and dedication alone should help to pull you through the process with great results — good luck!

    • 

      Thanks for this, SCB. It’s nice to hear that from someone who has done a book! I haven’t read the Island at the Center of the World but it’s in my shopping cart on Amazon, it looks great.

      So hopefully I can block out the noise enough to get out the story of Mr. Cornelius. But the big question is, will this laptop make my butt look too big when I’m writing about him?

      • 

        Tee hee! Just keep reminding yourself — ‘I am worthy, capable, beautiful, smart and talented…’ And that Island at the Center of the World Book was kick-ass — I think you’ll enjoy it.

  9. 

    No, no, no, it’s all just a diversionary stealth tactic. While JBOMW is in Madame’s face, Supportive Mind of Madame Weebles has her back and there’s some strong simmering on that back burner. No worries! :)

  10. 

    Oh, and LOVE the kitty! Mine loves the keyboard, too!

    • 

      I can’t take credit for the photo, that’s from the fine folks at I Can Has Cheeseburger. But I’ve had several kitties who have enjoyed lounging on keyboards. They’re so weird!

  11. 

    Judgemental brain aside, your book does sound like it will be a great read! I love to read those untold stories, too. For instance, I thought that “Empire of the Summer Moon” was fascinating, and I would never have known those characters and their stories were it not for the author (who was surely trying to quiet his own judgemental brain during the writing. Sometimes we listen, sometimes, we don’t!)

  12. 

    LOL. Writer’s brains talking to themselves isn’t so bad … but writing to themselves? I would suggest a lie down, but I guess Weebles can’t exactly do that, can they?

    Cheers!

    • 

      Poor Weebles, they can’t even have a nice nap. Meanwhile I can confirm that my brain hasn’t started writing on its own—that would be pretty creepy (although potentially helpful, who knows). This was just an excerpt of the usual dialogue I have in my head. Am I nuts? You decide!

  13. 

    No you’re not nuts, but I’d recommend that you send that Judgmental Brain on a vacation so you can write your fantastic biography of Robert Cornelius. Maybe Never Never Land or The Looking Glass – It is imaginary after all… :) And BTW, I love historical fiction and creative nonfiction. And if it matters at all, you’re a really good writer from what I’ve seen!
    Best,
    Cathy

  14. 

    You’re introducing a guy that’s been off the radar for what, decades? Yet, you find him fascinating and you’re eager to not only learn more about him but to write about him to put him back on the radar. If that’s not playing right into a hot dead guy’s male ego, what is? I’m sure you’d be a rock star to him.

    • 

      That’s very true. And the Victorians were nothing if not image conscious. Stil, I think I’m going to put on some nice earrings when I sit down to write again. You know, just for good measure. ;)

  15. 

    I have writer’s brain when it comes to music. At times it really gets to be a pain in the ass. Oy.

    • 

      It sucks, right? All brain blockage sucks. Whether you’re writing music or words, same suckage. But I do find it more traumatic when I’m also crushing on someone I’m writing about.

      • 

        It comes down to discipline in the end. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: “To be a great musician, you must have the spirit of a gypsy and the discipline of a soldier.” Completely agree. Of course, when Beethoven said that, he didn’t have pesky blogging addiction getting in the way.

        • 

          True. Easy for him to say. I bet he would have been an interesting blogger though. He wrote nicely. At least he wrote a nice letter to whoever Immortal Beloved was.

          • 

            I don’t think he would’ve been a good blogger. He was too impatient and was turned off by banality, which most of our blog content consists of. The Immortal Beloved was Antonie Brentano, btw.

            • 

              So that’s who Immortal Beloved was! I learned something today! Thanks Fred.

              I don’t know a lot about Beethoven as a person, although I dig his music. When I was learning to play the piano way back when, my teacher was a big Beethoven fan so instead of the usual Bach pieces a lot of my friends played, she gave me a lot of Beethoven. I loved it.

  16. 

    Not that I’d want the marvelous dialogue between JBOMW and you to stop, but you might find Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine interesting. He describes how this “I eat shit phase” is but one step in the brain’s creative process. Uncomfortable but necessary…. Sure made me feel better. ;-)

  17. 

    Still laughing, and sort of sniffling at the same time. :)

  18. 

    Sometimes a blog takes over, and you begin to wonder what happened to your life.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

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  3. Thank You For All of the Likes, Madame. « Brother Jon - September 9, 2012

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