Karen Janowsky

Superheroes in Love

Soon After First Light (Nicholas Christopher)

Jun 01, 2021 by Karen Janowsky, in Superheroes , Writing
I've always loved this author. I'm also glad I'm not the only one who believes there's no such thing as writers block (not that I have much discipline these days, mind you).

"I always ask my students," he reminds me, "Do you have a door that you can close?"

For Christopher, having a door to close and a space in which he can devote all his energy and focus to writing is an integral part of his process, which he sums up in a single phrase: "The inspiration will come while you are working."

"It doesn't mean you can't be walking through the park and get a great idea," he says, "but that's not the same as writing. I think when you're sitting down doing it...you're focusing; and if you're focusing, then you can be inspired by the simple fact that you're writing. There are so many things to get past when you write...if you have to work your way to your desk, you're already spending a lot of energy."

When Christopher isn't teaching, he makes his way to his writing desk seven days a week. By his own admission not a morning person, he will typically start writing at 11am and work for at least four hours. After a break, he returns in the evening to print and go over what he's written. At the end of the week, he'll go over the whole of what he's produced that week. With this kind of discipline, Christopher asserts that there are no "good and bad days." He's never believed in writer's block. Instead, he says that there can be "slow days, days where you write less but you've figured things out, solved problems"—in the writing—and he says he prefers days like this to days where the writing comes easily and abundantly, but needs a great deal of polishing...

He now says, with great conviction, "the only expectation should be to entertain and please yourself—to write what you want. If you start thinking what will work in the marketplace, what will be more intellectually satisfying for critics...that's just a dead end."

In the same vein, Christopher tries never to sterilize the writing process by focusing on numbers like word count. "We're not machines," he says, "it's not an industry. Days when I might write 200 words on a really compressed page that leads me somewhere are much more valuable than the day when I write 800 words and have to keep going back to it." Routine, for Christopher, is about discipline and sticking with the work, but it's not an automated or robotic process."