Monday, March 19, 2012


I am a writer...stop snickering, I am! In any event, I have a project due and I can't seem to start writing. I don't usually experience writer's block, but this piece is just slogging. What should I do?

Do you ever notice that writer's block never seems to afflict people who write about how their family doesn't understand that they are tortured souls? That's not a coincidence. Analyzing the potential implications of a foreign policy shift away from grain supply and towards Fruit Loops exports is not going to flow as organically from your cerebral cauliflower floret as a diatribe about girls who wear Uggs year-round.

You may need to outline to push yourself through the block. I won't give much advice on the best way to outline. It should be apparent from my past writings that I don't normally organize my thoughts before I start typing, but I spend most of my time making fun of people and their problems. That doesn't really require Roman numerals.

If you can't get started outlining because you don't know what your thesis is going to be, just pick a side and start outlining/writing from that point of view. Even if you later decide that you are completely wrong, at least you will have the structure done and you will just need to negate all the verbs. (I'm just kidding--don't you dare write that way. The point is you have overcome the block.)

Keep in mind that not everything you write will be worthy of a Pulitzer. There are days where your whole family has amebic dysentery, your child just dumped coffee all over herself and the run and you have to get something written before noon. Sometimes the point is just to get the information to the audience. If you have a solid track record of decent pieces, your readers will forgive you. The commenters probably won't, but most of them haven't read the article anyway.

What is your opinion on the controversy around Bully? Do you think it should get the PG-13 rating?

I don't think it matters. For those of you that haven't been following the story (and I really haven't been tracking the saga that closely), Roger Ebert had an informative post about it here. He mentions all the pertinent issues, like the hypocrisy and nebulousness of the ratings system. I agree with everything he says, but I still don't think the rating matters because kids don't watch movies in theaters anymore. We might as well be arguing about whether kids under 14 should be allowed in arcades or at barn-raisings.
Kids that go to the movies are there to socialize. The majority of their actual media consumption occurs at home. Anyone who thinks ratings systems still matter hasn't spoken to a young person since the South Park movie came out.

So it's fine for inquiring minds, both educated and not, to ponder whether the rating will hurt the impact of the movie. It probably will affect theater profits, but that's not what people claim to be protesting. If the argument is that kids won't hear the movie's critical message if it has an R-rating--well, that argument is as toothless as the ratings system itself.

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