Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Writer's Block

I’m going to make a pretty bold statement in this post.  I’m going to write about “writer’s block”, that terrible and frightening monster that savages every writer without warning or scrutiny.  Yes, we’ve all succumbed to its evil grasp and found ourselves hopelessly stuck at some point or another, simply unable to write no matter how hard we try.  It’s a terrible thing, this monster, and I am telling you right now that I think it’s a figment of our imagination.

        Writer’s block isn’t real.  There, I said it.  It is not a real thing—or at the very least we shouldn’t treat it like it is.  People refer to writer’s block as though it’s an actual affliction—that the relays and processes in their brain that make words happen have simply stopped functioning properly.  They talk about it as though they were just unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time under the wrong conditions and contracted it as one might catch a true sickness.  They think that the only thing they can do to get through it is to wait for it to pass, possibly whilst banging their heads repeatedly upon their unfinished manuscript.
         But if writer’s block were anything like a real sickness, it would be a symptom rather than the actual disease itself.  Writer’s block as a whole can’t be attributed to one single cause.  If there was a primary one however, it would be “just not knowing what should happen in your story”.

        It’s far too easy to get stuck in your story and call it writer’s block.  The problem is obviously in your mind, yet somehow it takes some of the blame off of you when you give it a name.  Suddenly your writing skills aren’t in question; you’ve simply come down with a bad case of the writer’s block, like anyone can.  But you know what?  There is absolutely nothing between you and figuring out your story other than figuring out your story.  Writing plot is something that you just have to do, and if every time you get stuck you claim you’ve got a problem, then, well… you do have a problem, though it’s not the one you think you’ve got!  Your story could probably use all of that energy you’re spending on brooding over the fact that you’re stuck.
Don't be like Emo Writer.

        Writer’s block isn’t just about story, though.  Some people find themselves suddenly unable to come up with any story or write anything.  And again I say that if this happens the problem lies purely within you.  It may seem like there’s an actual wall blocking your progress—hoo boy, does it ever feel like that sometimes—but there simply isn’t.  People just get in certain frames of mind and can’t seem to escape, and the trick is usually just to break the whole thing by force.  Are you stuck staring at your computer screen for hours on end?  Then go take a walk.  You’ve walked so much that you probably could have gotten across the country if you had stayed in a straight line?  Then you’ve got two options: squeeze out some really bad writing, or move onto something else for a while.

        When you’re stuck it really just comes down to the basic rules for getting a lot of writing done.  If your problem is that you feel like everything is coming out smelling like garbage, then just back up the dumpster and go for it.  If you can’t figure out your story, then you’ve just got to put some serious thinking into it and wait for the right idea to hit you, possibly writing something else to keep your momentum going.  And if you can’t seem to get any words on paper for no discernable reason, then buddy, you’ve just got to slap yourself in the face and write about what you ate for breakfast.  Sometimes stagnation can just cause our minds to clog up with muck (insecurities, stress, repeated thought processes) and we’ve got to flush it out, whether that means changing our surroundings or writing about something that doesn’t matter, just to get the pipes flowing again.

        The point is, when you give writer’s block a name and treat it like an affliction you victimize yourself, ultimately lending it the power it needs to ruin your life.  It’s like a magical monster in a kid’s movie; it only exists if you believe it does.  You have to remember that the words come from your mind and hit the page, and there is nothing in between.  Certain influences can make that more difficult, but in the end you are completely in control.  So much of how our brains work boils down to our frames of mind.  If you think you’re going to be unsuccessful, you probably are.  If you think you’re a bright and pleasant person, you probably are.  If you think you’ve got a problem and that something is stunting your writing ability, well… you get the point.  

I gotta say, I'm liking this whole cartoon thing.

        So forget about writer’s block.  It’s not real.  It’s just you and the pen, and no amount of adversity can change that.    

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