The Marine View Driver: Of Writer’s Block, Spark Plugs, Gas Tanks, & Pay Phones


In which the author writes purely metaphorically, of course.

by Mike Smith

Having writer’s block is similar to having bad spark plugs. No matter how hard you step on the accelerator, your car just sort of sputters.

When you are a writer, the process of creation is the spark plug, what makes the final product feel worthwhile or successful. So when the creating process gets gummed up, you spend a lot of time writing without getting anything to really move you.

It’s also like running out of gas. If you run out of gas your car will no longer run. In fact it usually runs out in a most inconvenient place. Like say, the bottom of the hill on 140th in Renton below Fairwood. Why is this? Because there is no gas station and the street lights stop illuminating anything about half way down the street. You’re in the dark and you can’t go anywhere.

Rust Never Sleeps by Peter Chilelli. Print available at FineArtAmerica

Rust Never Sleeps by Peter Chilelli. Print available at FineArtAmerica

So naturally, I—er, the car—run out of gas at the bottom of the hill. My writer’s block hits at a time when I sit down to write something about a topic and all I can do is continuously start and erase because I can’t get enough of an idea to make it all the way to the gas station, or home, or a phone booth because I may also have forgotten to bring my cell phone with me… but that is another topic.

Yes, your mind is the gas that makes the whole thing go. If your mind is a blank, as if it were a gas station which has run out of gas too, you can’t really do anything.

It is important to a writer to have a mind that has kept its inventory in excellent management. The mind of a writer should not be distracted by Super Bowls, or vacations, or grand-kids, or roommates that get a new car after his last one was stolen, or anything like that. The mind should be kept clear and nimble. It must be left open to jump and leap and frolic for ideas and interesting topics… like cars and the many experiences you’ve had in one.

Abandoned Truck by Steve Triplett. Print available at Fine Art America

Abandoned Truck by Steve Triplett. Print available at Fine Art America

But sometimes that does not happen. Sometimes the mind gets lost and distracted or simply becomes gummed up like the spark plugs I’ve mentioned. If you are a well-known and for-hire author, writer’s block can be a tragic and scary position. It could be like driving a rental car in the middle of Montana about 20 miles from the nearest town and having a flat tire. There is no cell phone service because the phone company isn’t going to build a million dollar cell tower so 45 people can have a cell phone. And your mother-in-law is with you and you have to be at an appointment on a farm that does not have an address—just a description of a road near a tree. It’s like that. Pretty desperate. But if you’re a real writer, you buck up and drive on a flat for the twenty miles and just try to come up with something. Hopefully it’s printable.

Writer’s block is also like driving in the snow to retrieve your mom’s Dodge Dart from a snow bank– before you bought it from her—and slipping down the other side of the road into a ravine in your car only to find that her car was not that stuck. So you drive the supposed stuck Dart home and leave your own car significantly stuck in a snowy ravine instead. You come back later and have to yank it out of the ravine with a third car and a chain.

By contrast, not having writer’s block is a dry road with plenty of gas and a well-maintained car.

Sometimes, though, and inevitably so, writer’s block occurs. At least so I am told. But my not being a for-hire writer with expensive deadlines, staff, commitments and an adoring audience works in my favor.

But I think if I were to have writer’s block I would know. It sounds a lot like car problems. I have had my share of those. I would probably recognize it. I hope it doesn’t happen. I hope it is a rare as:


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