Writer’s Block. Everyone says they get it. They wax eloquent about it to any who will listen, often—ironically, writing lengthy posts on social media.
It’s a romantic idea. Facing the blank page. It makes me think of depressed people in crappy apartments in France somewhere, limbs akimbo in dramatic torpor on their fainting couch with a bottle of wine, despair on their faces, cheese crumbs on the floor.
Writer’s block is a choice.
Now before everyone sends letter bombs and hate-mail my way calling me an unsympathetic Neanderthal who probably kicks puppies, allow me to explain.
Writers tend to assign more mysticism to their craft than other artists. Take for example a painter. If he went to his studio, put a bunch of paint on his pallet, pulled out a fresh sheet of paper fixed it on an easel, admired the form of some fruit, or even better a large quantity of naked person, and you came to see him a few hours later, you would not find a blank piece of paper. Unless of course he was hungry and ate the fruit or was really fond of the naked person.
The painter might well tell you it was not his best work. Perhaps the proportion is a bit off, the lighting, he gave the naked person cellulite. Whatever the case you would have a painting, a tangible product of the artists labor.
Not so writers. They often claim they cannot write a single word. I know this is a generalization, but tough, I can’t possibly speak about every writer on earth specifically.
What is really happening to a writer claiming writer’s block—wine sipping posers aside, is that fear has overcome our will. Or as Steven Pressfield calls it, resistance. Call it what you will, no force on earth can stop your hand and a pencil, or your fingers on a keyboard. None except you.
So, before we can be truly blocked, we must choose. We choose not to risk writing poorly and instead, to not write at all. As I sit composing this blog, I decided to look up a few quotes, hoping that some impressive authors would share my opinion. Turns out almost all of them do. Here are a few of note:
“I think writer’s block is when you say to yourself, “I could write something, but it wouldn’t be good enough.” There’s no such thing as a complete inability to write a sentence.’ Scott Adams
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.’ Mark Twain, American author
“Writer’s block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol.’ Steve Martin
And my favorite
“Writer’s block… a lot of howling nonsense would be avoided if, in every sentence containing the word WRITER, that word was taken out and the word PLUMBER substituted. Do plumbers get plumber’s block? What would you think of a plumber who used that as an excuse not to do any work that day? The fact is that writing is hard work.’ Philip Pullman, British author
So, my fellow scribblers, when you fell like you absolutely can’t write, you have a choice. Do or don’t. Writing isn’t for everyone, it requires a lot of delayed gratification. That includes getting on with it during those writing sessions that just don’t feel right or putting up with reading yesterday’s prose knowing it is probably all going to end up in the recycle bin. That’s ok. In fact, its better than ok. Because to get to those awesome sessions where the sentences rattle themselves off like magic and the ideas seem to flow through you faster than you can think, you have to be at the keyboard in the first place. Come on, its better than digging ditches. I even think it’s better than painting. Although we could take page out of their book when it comes to the nude models.
So, don’t feed the melodrama when you are having a bad writing day. Work through it. There is good stuff on the other side. Choose to write.