The book in your head is the perfect book. It's much better than any of the books you've read, because you know how you would fix all those amateur mistakes, those plot holes, that clunky dialogue. The book in your head will win every prize, will get rave reviews, will sell hundreds of thousands of copies.
I suspect most great writers are also terrible writers. It all depends what you show people. I think this is the key to beating the empty screen. Because it's the pressure that kills, right? The urge to write the next great novel, or make a boatload of money with scandalous, (un)literary smut, or prove what a deep, deep thinker you are. The pressure is too consistent to ever get anything done. So, yield to mediocrity, accept that the next word you write is likely going to be the wrong word and keep going anyway. The real worst case scenario isn't that you might write something bad. The worst case scenario is that you might write nothing at all.
The best way to deal with a blank page (or blank screen) is to simply not have one. Asking how one deals with a blank page is a bit like asking how one deals with an Ed Hardy thumb ring or a pinstriped fedora. Just avoid that whole landmine by not ever having one. It helps to have a backlog of ideas -- more ideas that you could ever possibly need or turn into finished stories. I keep a text file of half-baked ideas to develop should I ever get some spare time -- and some of them aren't half-bad. Be riddled with ideas. Sodden with them. So many ideas that you start to gag just in describing how many ideas you have.
When faced with the blank page or screen, I was a coward to the nth degree. Decades later, I still am. I might, in fact, be even more fearful now -- because experience has made me excruciatingly aware that the most intimidating, daunting, and unnerving material is typically the most vital to pursue. When, after years of abandoned starts, I recently started working with what is my most personally challenging material of all -- I can hardly bear to mention it here -- I found the blank screen and page had again bested me. In desperation, I have turned to cue cards. I write a sentence, fast, heart in my throat, and throw the card into a box.
You'd have thought Maclean's would have blazoned the death of Section 13 all over its front cover. With a massive headline along the lines of "SCREW YOU, CENSORS!!!" Or "WE WON!!!" Instead, the cover featured a generic picture of an innocuous youngish woman and an innocuous youngish man grinning maniacally and the silly headline: "The majority of us are singles. So why do we still live in a couples world?"
This year's Luminato Festival has a new culinary twist -- the Toronto Carretilla Initiative -- an experiential installation by artist Rainer Prohaska. The installation, made of shopping carts, boards, clamps, sheet metal and other building supplies, brings together function and form -- and food! Participation is free. I am highly recommending this to any foodie, budding cook, or art lover!
Jorn Weisbrodt, the new artistic director for Luminato, which runs from June 8 until June 17, sat down with me for lunch. As a new Torontonian, Jorn had almost as many questions for me as I did for him, but somehow, I left wondering more and more about this great city we live in, and what will happen when Luminato opens its doors this month...