Monday, April 13, 2009

Writer's Block? Fire up the Bat-signal.

Around the time the Dark Knight hit theaters, Borders ran a "Buy 4 get 1 Free" promotion on all their graphic novels. Normally I wouldn't buy my trades from a chain bookstore. Normally, I'm not in a chain bookstore unless it's to kill time before a movie or something of the like. This particular day I was on a break from work, had some extra money, and decided the deal was too good to pass up. Borders, in their infinite wisdom, slapped that promotional sticker on every damn book in their Comics section. One such book was the Essential Batman Encyclopedia, a rather weighty tome (which was not a graphic novel) that had recently been released by Ballantine/Del Rey. I purchased it and it immediately became my go-to book for bathroom reading. The editor who compiled this book is a Batman enthusiast like no other. Each entry is painstakingly researched and the book gives you a very rich look into Gotham City and it's people without buying over sixty years worth of comic books.

What does this have to do with writer's block, you might ask? Well for me it has everything to do with it. Now I know that some writers don't even believe in writer's block, that it's just an excuse bad writers use to justify the fact that they really can't tell a story. To be fair, certain writers in this world have I'm sure claimed they had writer's block just about as long as they've claimed they were writers. Pesonally, I believe it exists. Is it the near mythic beast we've made it out to be, only to be defeated by performing some dangerous eldritch ritual? No. But even the best of us get hung up or burnt out, even on our favorite stories. For me, the Essential Batman Encylopedia helps with that.

Why Batman, then? If you were to ask me 100 times what my dream job would be, I would answer you 100 times that my dream job is writing Batman comics. Were I to go back to the very beginning of consciousnesses, to the earliest days of my childhood, and count up from there through all the heroes, fictional and otherwise, that I've encountered, Batman would be the most important. No figure in the history of the written, the spoken, the performed word has had a more profound affect on me than the Caped Crusader. To be able to contribute to the tapestry of his myth would be the most rewarding thing I could ever dream of doing.

What's that got to do with writer's block? Plenty. As some of you know and others of you don't, I'm writing a story set in the Old West that is largely influenced by Beowulf. As only two of you know, I am also currently working on character design and plot points for a superhero comic I hope to write for a very, very long time. Beyond that, I am a very popular if not prolific essayist at, a writer of short fiction, and a now occasional contributor to Dean Trippe's Butterfly. I have plenty of things to work on, but even I struggle from the onset of ennui. Being unemployed can give you tons of time to work on creative projects but it can also just as easily sap your will when you start thinking about all the stress it causes. Batman saves me from all that. These days, whenever I get bored or discouraged or "blocked," I just pick up that Batman Encyclopedia and a notebook and go to work. I'll find obscure characters with rich and interesting details, cross-reference them to other characters, places, events, and begin to weave my own rich stories around them, my pen rapidly filling up lines in a composition book marked plainly as the "Batman Book."

What's the point of all that if I don't even work for DC Comics? What's the point if writing Batman is something only a very lucky few get the chance to do? Because I'm a damn juggernaut, that's why. Because I'm an unstoppable tornado of will, luck, and goddamned obstinance. Because someday I will get a phonecall from the editorial staff of DC Comics asking me to provide them with a few pitches for some new Batman stories. When that day comes, I'll be ready, because I let the Bat be stronger than the block.


  1. The block is real, man. I would hope no one gives you a hard time on it because it's a demon we all face.
    Just consider it part of the process(thinkin' about writing counts as writing in my world view) and plow through. Write bullshit. Consider words to be what keeps you afloat. You can always toss bad writing and eat the paper if yer starving.
    You never know when you're gonna need a Batman book.
    I have a go to book too. It's The Lynda Barry book entitled WHAT IT IS and is an endless source of creative energy.

  2. Man, that Batman book is incredible! It's exhaustive! It really goes right up to the point where I started reading Batman religiously again, so I feel like a freaking expert now. Plus, it's been the inspiration for three Batman stories and a Vic Sage Question story that I WILL write some day.