Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Stop Scribbling Society

Recently I met a lovely woman who makes her living by curing other people of writer’s block, through her organization, "The Red Room Writers' Society." The euphoniously named Ivory Madison does this chiefly by offering a time and space apart from everyday life that is dedicated to writing—in this case, the elegant red dining-room of a Victorian mansion in San Francisco, where clients must sit and write for “one solid hour,” followed by “tea and hot hors d’oeuvres.”

I don’t suffer from writer’s block, but I really wish I did. In fact, I would pay someone to induce it. I don’t mean I would pay someone to stop me writing. That would be easy—just take away my laptop. I mean that I’d pay someone to stop me wanting to write. I’m not sure what this would involve. Perhaps my not-writing teacher would wire up my keyboard so it administers a mild electric shock every time I touch it, or maybe I’d have to copy out some of the more chilling passages from the journals of Sylvia Plath one hundred times each. Maybe I’d have to sit in a room for an hour with other aspiring non-writers and do nothing, followed by hors d’oeuvres.

In any case, I would pay someone at least ten thousand dollars to stop me writing, an amount I would earn back many times over by spending my time in gainful employment instead of idle scribbling. Let’s face it, writing is a very bad career choice: even if you’re good at it, there’s no guarantee that you will sell your work, and even if you sell your work, you’re unlikely to earn money. If I didn’t write, I would probably be much happier, and definitely much richer. Instead of helping people to conquer their fear of the blank page, it would be more humane to encourage it, perhaps via a daily affirmation, “My life is rich and full without writing,” to be repeated three times before a mirror and with conviction.


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