I hit the creative wall a few weeks back. Hit it hard. Halfway through a scene, I suddenly couldn’t answer the fairly basic question of “what happens next.” Contrary to my own sensible advice, I stopped writing altogether rather than pushing on through the writer’s block. That said, for me it was like running into a featureless monolith so tall I couldn’t see the top, let along climb it. So I deviated into excuses (too busy, too tired, too distracted) knowing cracks would eventually appear in the surface, and widen to the point where I could wedge my fingertips in and haul myself up and over — but I didn’t know when.
The “when” was yesterday. I sat down and persevered through 140+minutes of the Holy Grail of sci-fi films, ‘Metropolis’, and while I suspect director Fritz Lang harbored fascist tendencies and wasn’t working too hard on disguising his rampant anti-Semitism, it was worth the occasional swirling discomfort to finally meet the quintessential mad scientist: Rotwang, he of the big hair and mechanical hand. I say quintessential, because what feature of his performance has not become a sci-fi trope? What mad scientist since 1927 hasn’t copied The Hair? Back on point though, I noticed that every time Rotwang set about his mad science he would physically lead with his mechanical hand. Bad acting aside, for some reason this resonated with me. It also, incidentally, made me think of the Backstreet Boys, who for the record I have only ever read about and never listened/watched any of their songs or 90’s music-videos thereof, nuh-uh, and maybe the street-dancing-zombie scene from Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’. Or maybe that was just me.
But it poses an obvious question, doesn’t it? WHERE IS MY MECHANICAL HAND? Metaphorical or otherwise, this awesome prop gave Rotwang both the courage and strength to carry on with his evil plotting despite some serious setbacks and disappointments. It was both a sword and shield, and he certainly didn’t lament its loss in the name of science. So what do I have that might act in a similar way in the name of
literature pulp-fiction? I have decidedly less hair, don’t wear make-up, and both of my hands are right where the ought to be. On the keyboard! seriously, I could pretend to have a gammy leg (“took some schrapnel in the war!”), or maybe a gimpy eye — but it doesn’t seem right, faking it. Unfaithful to Rotwang’s spirit, you might say. But I definitely need a prop. Some kind of focus. A physical thing that will return and center me to the (sometimes tedious) task of writing the next book. Like the awesome Stargate Atlantis keyring I bought (and lost) a few years back. Now THAT was cool. So I have my mission, faithful reader(s)! I will scour the interwebs for this thing, this holy grail of writing, and when I locate it, be sure you’ll be the first to know.
… and okay, I lied: