The 2-Word Solution for Every Blocked-up Genius

The 2-Word Solution for Every Blocked-up Genius

Get a pen ready. You’ll want to write this one down.

You’re writing a masterpiece. It’s going to be the best thing written, ever, by anyone. It’ll be epic and entirely original. Every sentence will flow with wit, while being as tight and crisp as the prose of Hemingway.

If world-shattering wasn’t a cliché, that’s what this writing would be.

“Eat this, Willy Shakespeare,” you’ll say when you’ve finished.

Every publisher will want a piece of you. You won’t have to do any marketing besides sending your finished piece to the first agent listed in Writer’s Digest, who will instantly recognize your genius.

You accept that a few publishers might reject you. This is the cross any good writer must bear, and it’s only fair. The first Harry Potter book was rejected 9 times before being published  Watership Down notched up 26 rejections. Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, took 30 rejections before hitting shelves.

But your writing? That book will be an instant, worldwide hit. Bookstores will be looted because of the words you’ve written.  You’ll need to open a bank account in Switzerland to cope with your newfound wealth. And you’ll need to flee to your European mansion to escape the media frenzy and find some peace.

The only trouble is that you haven’t written a single word. You’re a blocked genius.

The masterpiece is still in your head. You’re keeping it there in pristine condition. You haven’t yet wanted to dirty it with pen and ink, or word processors and typos.

One day you will.

You wish you could do it today. But you can’t.

Want the solution? Brace yourself; it’s only two words. And grab your pen to write it down.

Here it comes…

Stop it!

I hate to break it to you, but you’re probably not a genius. And if you are, you won’t become one by writing a masterpiece.

Write an article for a magazine. Write fiction. Write publicity materials for your two jaded clown-friends and their bankrupt Russian circus.

But please, put the masterpiece to bed.

Don’t try to write a tour de force.  Write an excellent, publishable article. Write horror fiction that gives you nightmares.  Write publicity materials so good that the two clowns become a sell-out act and can afford to employ a knife thrower, a fire eater, an acrobat, a juggler and a trapeze artist.

Forget the masterpiece. There’s no need to be amazing, unique or original. Just use what works.

Remember, Dickens didn’t write masterpieces. He wrote serialized fiction to entertain the masses. Dostoevsky didn’t write to get rich.  He wrote to pay off his gambling debts. And the Bronte sisters? They wrote because they just liked telling stories.

So stop it. And just go write something you enjoy, and write it well.

Post by David Masters

David is a digital writer, storyteller, vagabond and dreamer based in Swansea, Wales. He traveled the world hunting for a damn good story and discovered brilliant stories are everywhere. To brighten your day with more storytelling goodness you can (and should) follow David on Twitter.

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  1. Or…just self publish it.

    KIDDING. Totally kidding. 😉

  2. Hi David,

    good article. You’ve pointed out a societal-wide problem: folks putting themselves under intense pressure to be famous and rich instead of just being themselves.

    take a small step and then another and then another. to sit down and say you are writing a masterpiece will make you crazy.

    Giulietta

  3. You’re right, we just need to start. Wonder what Einstein would blog about?

    Backed up? Wonder if there is a Roto Rooter for writing? That would be a funny post.

    • The best Roto Rooter for writers is freewriting. Simply sit down and write. Peter Elbow’s “Writing with Power” is a nifty and practical introduction to freewriting.

  4. I’ve never been able to free write. I need to have a point I’m trying to reach at when writing. When there’s no point at the end – there’s no writing 🙂

    As for that master piece – ain’t never gonna happen if you wait for inspiration. Either get up in the morning and write it – or give it up and write something that will earn you money today.

    Great post David!

  5. Excellent advice. And I loved that it was so well written.

  6. Where were you this weekend!?!?!? I had an awful writing weekend because the pressure was on for a big article. I don’t think I wrote 2 coherent words in all the time I sat staring to the computer. I think this is the big takeaway for me: “So stop it. And just go write something you enjoy, and write it well.” – I really needed this, thanks!

  7. Thank you for a laugh-out-loud moment! You put it very well: “masterpieces” were not necessarily created as such and the writers we look up to might have had more mundane preoccupations than making it into the literary canon… Hacks of the world unite!

  8. Thanks for the excellent (and humorous) advice. This will help me when I am block by the ‘writer’s curse” of feeling that I am not good enough.

    Also, I love that you used Dickens as an example. He is one of my favorite writers.

    • There are times every day when I feel like I’m not good enough!

      When you have the curse you force the words out and, frankly, they’re often terrible. But when you stop and listen to yourself – really listen – you discover what you want to say, and the words flow effortlessly from your fingertips.

  9. Absolutely wonderful advice David, every skill is mastered by being put into practice. If one wishes to become the next best great writer of all time, they will probably need to start small by writing and publishing small works on a regular basis… and then maybe after some time and perfecting of their talent, they will publish larger works that fulfill their lifelong dream of being a “writer”.

    • I wish I’d thought of putting it that way – start small. Do something tiny. My favorite practice for making sure I write every day is my one sentence journal. Seriously, aside from breaking both your arms and losing your voice, all on the same day, there’s no excuse.

  10. Loved this post, David. I had my pen all ready to write down the two words, and laughed out loud when I read them.

    I have to admit that I learned to ‘Stop It’ the hard way. After graduating with a degree in English Lit, I felt lots of pressure to write something serious and significant. I even had a few months in which I had the chance to do nothing but write, and I didn’t write a word. I was terrified anything I wrote would pale in comparison to the books I’d read in school, and of course, it would have.

    Once I accepted that my writing would suck until I got better at it, the English Lit spell was broken and I started to write. I always make myself feel better by saying, “You’re only going to get better.” Now I’m going to add “Stop It,” to that sentence as well. Thanks!

  11. Terror. Yep, I know that feeling. My writing sucks. Yep. Know that one too.

    Oh, and thanks for acting the foil to my rather mean gag! Maybe we could launch our own two clown act? 🙂

  12. Ah this is all so true… I was too afraid to start my masterpiece, so I thought I’d start a smaller project instead. But then I built the smaller project up in my head til it was just as intimidating as the “masterpiece”. D’oh!
    I like Ze Frank’s take on this too, he calls it Brain Crack: http://www.zefrank.com/theshow/archives/2006/07/071106.html

    • Sandra, what happened next – after the small piece became intimidating?

      • I developed a cunning plan to get into shape creatively. I spent a year working on one tiny story/illustration a day trying to limber up. If the daily story turned out good, then hurray. If it turned out horrible, no biggie. Gradually, my creative muscles toned up a little. This has given me the confidence to attack the smaller project again, and take it piece by piece.

        • That’s a fantastic story, Sandra. How long were the stories you decided to tell? Are they the character-a-day stories on your blog?

          Confidence is such an important – and little talked about – part of the writing process.

  13. I didn’t expect that conclusion from the opening paragraphs: brilliant. I meet so many people who want to write but don’t because of this perfectionism thing. I’m inclined to say that we’re all pretty lousy and average with everything else we do in life so why treat writing any differently…

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