Have you ever had one of those days where even your daydreams won’t stay focused?
That’s the mental equivalent of doodling. Remember doodling? It was what got you through Algebra class, until the teacher caught you and posted your work on the blackboard. Unlike other private art exhibits, this was not an honor, especially if you had drawn a penis with the teacher’s face on it.
At least the normal type of doodling produces a tangible result, however dubious. The same cannot be said of mental doodling. Once a half-thought passes into your brain and other thoughts don’t want to come out and play, it just gets mad, leaves and takes all its toys with it, leaving you with an empty playground where your mind should be.
This creates … I hesitate to type the term … Writer’s Block; the Lord Voldemort of all mental disabilities; It That Must Not Be Named; the thing every writer dreads, especially those who have deadlines. It’s hard to write anything when you can’t get an idea to stick in your head long enough to turn it into something people would want to read.
Notice the Harry Potter reference above. I don’t think J.K. Rowling had too many of these kinds of days when she was writing that series; she probably just came up with one brilliant idea after another, and kept all the confusing details straight in her head while she was doing it. No, I don’t hate her. I want to be successful like her. I want to write a series of books so in demand that people will be lining up outside Barnes and Noble to snap up every available copy the minute they come out. I’d also like to own one of the Greek islands, but that isn’t going to happen, either.
Even those nice daydreams that often serve as inspiration for your literary efforts fail you when you are going through the kind of brain processor malfunction described above. No sooner does your mind happily gather moss from one subject than it stops dead and begins gathering better looking moss from somewhere else. Example: the paragraph before this one, where I suddenly decided to discuss J.K. Rowling and Greek islands in the middle of a piece about not being able to concentrate on writing. I rest my case.
What can a writer do when these times come on us?
It’s easy: write about not being able to write, and poke fun of it. That way, you have an instant subject that is easy to write about because you are going through it as you write it. If you’re good at it, you’ll even get some laughs, which is what a humor writer lives for.