Writer’s Block and the Cat’s Hat

When Dr. Seuss faced writer’s block,  he went into a closet full of hats.Cat-in-the-Hat

Dr. Seuss, née Theodor Geisel often worked with his editor, Michael Frith, and according to Lisa Hix, over at Collector’s Weekly:

“…when they’d get stuck… Geisel would open a secret door to a closet filled with hundreds of hats. Then, he and Frith would each pick a different hat, perhaps a fez, or a sombrero, or maybe an authentic Baroque Czech helmet or a plastic toy viking helmet with horns. They’d sit on the floor and stare at each other in these until the right words came to them.”

Why aren’t we all doing this? Right, Bushwick musicians? Is it not the best idea ever?!

It turns out, the author of our best-loved books collected hundreds of hats and stashed them in a closet along with personal paintings and drawings that never saw the light of day. That is, until a curator approached Audrey Geisel about opening up that secret closet, which was hidden behind a bookcase with a false door.

Twenty six of the hats and a selection of the artwork from Dr. Seuss’ closet will be touring the country through the end of this year. The exhibit includes the famous chapeau that inspired Geisel’s most well-known mischievous cat.

My own system for writer’s block involves time-wasting and lying. This morning I opened a blank document and stared at it for precisely 20 seconds before checking my email, at which I replied to Bushwick blog editor Mike Votava, “putting the finishing touches on it now!” Then I checked in with tumblr, read about the 15 Best Road Movies (Badlands was number 10!), watched an episode of Prison Break, made toast, threw away old mail, killed a small spider, and finally typed a title across the top of the formerly blank document.

Other writers and musicians have offered their own cures for writer’s block:

  • Neil Gaiman says to put whatever you’re working on aside for a few days and do something else. When you come back to it, dive in and make notes. By the time you get to the end you’ll be enthusiastic again.
  • John Steinbeck said to imagine you were writing, just like a letter, to someone you love or admire.
  • Susan Sontag made rules for herself, writing in her diary, “Starting tomorrow — if not today: I will get up every morning no later than eight. (Can break this rule once a week.)…I will tell people not to call in the morning, or not answer the phone. I will try to confine my reading to the evening. (I read too much — as an escape from writing.)”
  • Ray Bradbury says to switch subjects: “You’re being warned, aren’t you? Your subconscious is saying ‘I don’t like you anymore. You’re writing about things I don’t give a damn for.’”
  • Maya Angelou recommends showering: “I write in the morning and then go home about midday and take a shower, because writing, as you know, is very hard work, so you have to do a double ablution.”
  • Sergei Rachmaninoff used hypnotherapy to get over his writer’s block to compose the Second Piano Concerto.
  • Jack Kerouac had a specific exercise: “I try to do nine touchdowns a day, that is, I stand on my head in the bathroom, on a slipper, and touch the floor nine times with my toe tips, while balanced. This is incidentally more than yoga, it’s an athletic feat, I mean imagine calling me ‘unbalanced’ after that.”
  • Tyler the Creator relates his story of writer’s block: “I’m so bored with rapping…so when I got writer’s block, I got that shit so fucking bad, like I didn’t know what the fuck to rap about…I had writer’s block until I was like, ‘oh shit, I can just write about how much money I made last year and my fucking bike.’ And it worked.”

See, it’s easy, right?!

Every artist gets “the shanks” from time to time, and the trick is figuring out how to work through it. Whether it’s a routine schedule that you keep (9am every morning for William Faulkner, midnight to dawn for Kerouac) or a small dark cave in your basement that you’ve hollowed out yourself, the point is to do what it takes for you to find the words again.

Now bring on the hats!

GiveBig to Bushwick. Today is the day!

giveBig_side_v02Today is the day of The Seattle Foundation’s giveBig event. In case you don’t know by now, this is a one-day, online charitable giving event to inspire people to give generously to nonprofit organizations like The Bushwick Book Club Seattle. Every dollar donated will be partially matched by The Seattle Foundation’s sponsors.

Click HERE to donate to the Bushwick Book Club Seattle


Why giveBig to The Bushwick Book Club Seattle?

We have worked with over 100 musicians in the past 3 years.

giveGigDebbieThe Bushwick Book Club Seattle creates a platform for musicians to write and perform original music from a source outside of themselves, a process which is both challenging and fun. But wait… that is not all!  Our book inspired events also provide the audience (that’s you guys!) the chance to experience the source material in a way that’s far different than just sitting in a coffee shop reading alone. We can all join together as one big book reading music listening community. How cool is that?! The answer – it is super cool!

We offer free studio recording time to our Bushwick musicians.

albumArtOne of Bushwick’s goals is to support our artists in as many ways as possible and this doesn’t stop at filling a room with people who would not normally hear these wonderful performers. By offering our artists free studio recording time we give them the opportunity to create professional recordings of their book inspired tunes. But of course, it is free to them only because Bushwick pays for the whole operation. This is something that we are more than happy to do, however, as you probably already know studio time is not cheap and your donations will help go towards fitting our giant sized recording bills.

You can hear all of these book inspired songs over on our bandcamp page.

The Bushwick Podcast

We want to create podcasts of our live events for everyone to enjoy. This will certainly take a lot of time, effort and Bushwick dollars. To record the performances themselves, edit my voice out of everything (for the love of God), and mix down all of those musicians is quite a bit of work… and it will be well worth it! Your donations will make it possible.

Kids Programs
We love working with kids teaching critical thinking and songwriting skills. Our educational workshops in schools are very important to us. We have created our new program  to help encourage and educate students (future Bushwick artists!) in Seattle area schools. If you think this program is a good idea give me an emphatic “HELLLLLL YEAHHHHHH!” and then go over to our donation page and drop us some major coinage.

We might do your book

I’m not gonna lie folks, we would love to write and perform music inspired by everyone’s favorite book but I’m telling you right now, that is pretty much an impossible feat. I know, I know… I’m sad about it too, however, I’ve got some good news for you. If you donate $3000 or more to Bushwick we can and will put on an event inspired by YOUR favorite book. How amazing would that be? Any book you want… just let that sink in to your noggin for a second. I know you want to. Let me make it easy for you,  click here to donate.



The Bushwick Book Club Seattle is more than just the best book club in town. It is also an amazing community of musicians, artists, book lovers, music lovers, actors, comedians, sound engineers, designers, chefs, writers, teachers, lawyers, doctors, baristas… all coming together to help make Seattle one of the best places to live. I am honored to have worked with and gotten to know so many amazing people over the past few years.

This Guy….

He’s working hard to make this a success… but not without the help of the over 150 artists, actors, volunteers, and incredible Bushwick fans. Thank you all for everything. Please donate if you can.  We have a good thing here, let’s keep it going.

GiveBIG_CallToActionBushwickBring it folks!

Click HERE to donate