How To Slay A Dragon

This is my last essay for my creative writing class. It’s part of my portfolio that I’ll be handing in as a final. I’ve got away with much more than I thought I’d be able to in that class, but I’m a little nervous about this one. I don’t have enough time to rewrite it at this point, so I’m just going to hand in what I have and pray about it. I actually like it, it’s just pretty weird. I thought I’d share, anyway.

How To Slay A Dragon:

          I think writer’s block doesn’t exist in heaven. In heaven everyone knows exactly what to say and how to say it. No one has to spend 20 minutes fishing around their brains for the right word or rewrite the same sentence 900 times. In heaven stream of consciousness sounds like refined poetry and there is no fear of judgment because everyone’s writing is perfect. Unfortunately, this isn’t heaven. This is New England and writing doesn’t always come easy to us mortals. We have to spend three days thinking about what we’re going to write for our creative writing essays and hours, days or even years revising our work. We get distracted by the itchy bumps on our sunburned arms in the early days of summer and stumped by writer’s block.

          My hypothesis is that writer’s block is such a problem because it’s so difficult to conceptualize. There could be a hundred ways to define it and the causes and symptoms are different for every writer. I don’t think there’s a cure either; only treatments that sometimes work and sometimes don’t. It’s different for every genre and style. Songwriter’s block is different than essay writer’s block or poet’s block and it can be easier or more difficult to deal with depending on the genre.

            In songs it matters more if you can’t find the perfect word because a word or phrase can make or break a verse or chorus and can sometimes change entire songs. I also have to worry about rhyme and rhythm, which can make finding the perfect word that much more difficult. With essays there is also much more time for revision whereas I find it is usually better to finish a song as quickly as possible so that it remains cohesive and is finished with the same level of inspiration as when I got started.

If I had to explain it, I would say that writer’s block is like the Great Wall of China. I’ll be cruising down some highway in my mind in an obnoxiously red car with the top down and the radio blaring and suddenly I have to stop for this seemingly impassible road block, all confused because I thought I was headed for Georgia. The wall seems to go on for miles in every direction. In an instant the music stops and my awesome fantasy car disappears from under me. The sun gets lost behind some storm clouds and I’m stranded, staring at this wall without an umbrella.

I’ve been here before, but the wall is always different. Sometimes it’s made of all the things I have to do and have done and haven’t got to do yet and want to do. Sometimes it’s made of all my failed endeavors and wishful thoughts about what the future could be. Sometimes it’s made of all the things I’ve read and want to read and little snippets of literature and songs that I’ve committed to memory either on purpose or by accident. Sometimes it’s made up of all the self annoyance I’ve built up about watching too many YouTube videos or playing video games for too long when I could be writing and saving the world. These extra thoughts are detrimental to creative flow.

I’ve been told that the only way to beat writer’s block is to write. Even writer’s block itself can be something to write about, so maybe it all depends on how hard you want to try. Sometimes the wall looks indestructible, but if you look hard enough, you might find a sneaky little tunnel a few miles off because the sun peaked through the clouds at exactly the right time and reflected off a piece of glass that was kindly left at the secret entrance by the writer’s and songwriter’s who had been there before you. You pick up your shovel, sit down at your computer or grab a guitar and dig out the entrance of that tunnel so you can fit through and discover what lies beyond the wall.

It can be a treacherous journey, though. The tunnel is poorly lit or even not lit at all. It takes unexpected turns and sends you careening down steep slopes into regions of the imagination you didn’t even know existed. In these places you have to learn quickly if you want to get out alive. Eventually you see a pattern to the traps in these dungeons and find your way to the dragon’s lair. You realize that you have the perfect line—saving the world ain’t as easy as it sounds—and you draw your magic sword and slay the dragon. You finally find the way out of the cavern and ride off into the sunset, riding bareback on a giant flying guinea pig.

It’s much harder to think about dealing with writer’s block in practical terms. It usually takes a lot of time and patience, which I often don’t have. Sometimes if I can’t find the right word or line for a song I’ll read or play a mindless video game so I can think about my song while building a house and listening to music. Sometimes I’ll read Facebook posts by crazy people (I know a lot of crazy people) and sometimes I’ll just wander around and sing. I don’t always find the magic sword right away, but sometimes I find a flash light or a map. Maybe I’ll meet a crazy hermit who tells me a two hour long story about psychedelic disco worms. Maybe it’ll take me a little while, but I’ll eventually realize that it was a clue to help me find the sword and there were implicit suggestions about how to slay the dragon. Sometimes you just have to let a song take you in a completely different direction that you were thinking, but it will probably turn out okay. It might turn out better than you expected.

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