Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Writing Is Not A Mystery - The Myth of Writer's Block (Part 3)

In Part 1 of The Myth of Writer's Block we looked at having too few ideas and how that plays out.  In Part 2 we looked at what happens when you  have too many.
These are two huge challenges that go undiagnosed as we ascribe more and more power to the idea of "Writer's Block."

Yet, they are just the tip of the iceberg.  Almost anything can derail the process if you fall prey to it - and we lump most of it under the term "Writer's Block."

The blank page is daunting; occasionally beautiful, but mostly daunting.

The blank page is dastardly.  It represents infinity, and its opposite, the null set.  Everything and nothing.  Every possibility you've dreamed; every failure you can possibly project.  The blank page is a barometer of fear and loathing.

The blank screen may be worse - as it offers myriad ways to click into internet bliss.

The already-written page can be annoying, boring, and invoke fits of housecleaning in the most chore-averse people on the planet.  Re-reading what you've written, editing, fashioning the end result from the raw ingredients is a lot of work.  It requires patience, a good eye, courage and tenacity.

However, lack of focus is not writer's block - it's lack of focus.  Unwillingness to wade through the morass of words to find the story is not writer's block.

There is no writer's block.

There can be a pervasive feeling of inadequacy; there can be non-belief in your story, your words; there can be shortcomings of technique to express it properly.

Writer's do themselves a massive disservice by calling any of this Writer's Block.  This can result in literally supporting the block - refusing to let the symptoms show means that there can be no cure.

You end up as a sporadic writer with a fickle muse.  This makes you moody and inconsistent as a person.  It makes you wonder all kinds of things you don't need to wonder (oh, but what a great opportunity for a free write that is!).

What it doesn't do is get the words out.  And this is, after all, what it means to be a writer.

You've got to know yourself to write.  You've got to create an intimate relationship with you to get the words down on the page.  You've got to deal with yourself.  You've got to self-govern.  You've got to figure out how long a leash you need.  You've got to figure out how hard you have to play to get down to work.  You've got to know when housecleaning is downright procrastinating and when it's actually letting ideas rise to the top, or it's just ick - you really need to clean your home.  You've got to learn when going out with friends and drinking too damn much is going to clear your mind to leave you free and easy in your next writing session, or when it's a delusional foray into hipster oblivion.  You've got to know when to go out and get laid.  You've go to know when to take a walk on the beach and clear your head.

And then you've got to write when it is time to write.  The more you sit down to it, the more often it will be time to write.  I swear and I promise.

Figure out what the problem is before you name it.  Then, use your skills to defuse it.  Get help if you need it.  Talk it out, walk it out, write it out, ride it out.  Remember what you know - names are powerful and often acquire force in the naming.  Be bigger than it is - it's your monster in a box - you put it there, and you can open the lid and peer inside.

As artists, we inevitably start and end with ourselves.  As humans, we are trapped in our skins and circumstances, prey to sensory misperceptions and unconscious motives.   If we don't learn the labyrinths of our own inner workings, it makes it very hard to map the artistic process.  (Don't worry - you won't get bored; we are consistently changing.)

If your temperament and lifestyle only suggest a few hours of writing a week - then make that fine.  Sit down with that.  Contorting yourself into your idea of what a writer is or does - this is most assuredly going to lead to writer's block.  Build your chops - progress in the process.  Let a regimen evolve according to your needs and abilities.

There are tools that can help you - daily free writes, timed writing, using prompts, talking your story into a recorder, talking it out with a partner, artist dates, walks, meditation.  Use the ones that work for you.

“Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.” 
- Bruce Lee

What if the block is not a block?  What if it's a building block?  What if it's air?  What if it's a foundation?  You are a writer - the imagination is your specific province - we create worlds from words.  That block, writer, it's whatever you want it to be.

What would Bruce Lee do?

( - we're still not finished with Writer's Block.  I promise you some tools for diagnosis next time!)

(This blog is part of a series - you can look the others up on the side, or go to the blog search and type "writing is not a Mystery" - either should work.)

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