Writer’s block is a very controversial subject in the publishing world. Everyone has an opinion and everyone is right. Okay, maybe not everyone. I am right…and also NUMBER ONE AT HUMBLE!
*gets cramp patting self on back*
I believe that, when it comes to discussing writer’s block, there is a real danger of oversimplifying a truly complex phenomenon. Many claim there is no such thing as writer’s block. Just sit down and write and stop making excuses for being lazy. While laziness might be an answer (as we’ll explore) this One-Size-Fits-All solution is low-hanging fruit. Sort of like going to the doctor where the standard answer for everything is to “lose weight.”
Me: I’m tired all the time.
Doctor: Lose weight.
Me: My knee really hurts. I think I might have arthritis.
Doctor: Lose weight.
Me: *blood spurting from missing arm* I uh, think I need emergency surgery.
Doctor: Nah. Lose weight.
Now, is it true that many health issues could be remedied if we weren’t carrying around extra poundage? Sure. But, the human body is vastly complex, meaning it’s wise to ditch the myopia and take into consideration other factors.
Same with writer’s block.
Writer’s Block & Laziness
We’ll just deal with probably the most common explanation for writer’s block right now. Why? Because just like sometimes losing weight really IS the answer to a health issue, laziness could be at the root of our inability to put words on the page.
Because writing is hard work. Let me add a caveat, “Superlative writing is hard work.”
I know this because when I knew NOTHING about my craft, I never ran out of stuff to slap on the page. My first ‘novel’—the 187,000 word monstrosity I keep in the garage because it pees on the carpets—was a JOY to write. My book had IT ALL! There was romance, action, comedy! My novel had everything…except a plot.
Image courtesy of Eflon via Flickr Creative Commons
The past few years have been just brutal. My grandmother who raised me was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and it was just one crisis after another and it just never…freaking…let…up. I felt like I was in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu being crushed all the time, but not allowed to tap out. Then, on Independence Day (ironically) my grandmother finally passed away.
I really never appreciated how much her declining health was impacting me until she was gone. It was like I was wandering around in a fugue state only aware that my knees hurt. Then out of nowhere a hand lifted off the 500 pound gorilla and I could breathe again. I never noticed the gorilla, never noticed the lack of air, only the knee pain.
So now I am in the process of rebuilding. I plan on taking a couple days off to…
“There’s no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges,” – Ernest Hemingway
To many writers, Ernst Hemingway is an idol, the ‘ultimate writer’. He is undoubtedly a legend. The legend once said, an unhappy childhood was the best early training for a writer. Malicious gossip has it that Hemingway wrote his best work while unhappy and drunk.
Erich Maria Remarque, author of All Quiet on the Western Front, was said to be notoriously depressive, and drew on his creativity from the deepest abyss of his sadness.
There are so many amazing authors, and each one of them is driven by a different motivation. But what if motivation is resting and creativity hiding? How can the sleeping muse be awoken?
Numerous ways to find motivation:
coffee or tea
read a good book
listen to stories
a nice dinner
the desire to create a world/story/fairy tale
peace and silence
spending time outside (on the beach or in the woods)
calm backyard in the shade
This is only a small number of possibilities. After all, there are so many more – too many to count.
But what if an author can’t find it? What if the muse is on vacation, creativity asleep and motivation in a coma? What if writer’s block has kicked in?
The American Author, Joyce Carol Cates, said: “I don’t think that writer’s block exists really. I think that, when you’re trying to do something prematurely, it just won’t come. Certain subjects just need time… You’re got to wait before you write about them.”
Erica Jong states: “All writing problems are psychological problems. Blocks usually stem from the fear of being judged.” And Norma Mailer informs: “Writer’s block is only a failure of the ego.”
These are famous authors who tell you what might cause it, but how do we end it? Hilary Mantel advises: “If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, bot to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise, whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.”
But who is right? The ones telling us that writer’s block doesn’t exist, or those who believe it can be overcome? Does it matter? What authors want, is to write – having or not having writer’s block or ‘just being stuck’ is not a question that needs to be asked.
So how can we kiss the muse awake again?
Many famous writers have discussed the benefits of working and writing in piece and silence. Their advice is to get your own room and be able, and willing, to close the door.
Some writers work with background music, others write around their cats or with their dog, sleeping on their feet. I figure there are as many writing preferences as writers exist.
I personally love to write in the backyard, by the pool. I don’t mind hearing street workers, tree saws, or sirens in the distance. Dogs barking or a kid screaming or laughing is fine with me. When I’m in my story, I am too focused to really hear these sounds.
When I worked on a romantic short story a while back, I tried to write within a romantic and unusual environment, and found a spot near a waterfall. I love waterfalls – normally. That day I was delighted – for about 25 minutes. After that, I was bothered by the sound. The permanent flow of water made me nervous and fidgety, and I had to repeatedly interrupt the flow of the story to go to the bathroom. No need to say I didn’t write anything useful that day.
If you find the perfect place and surroundings in which to write, I personally recommend that you stay with it. Decorate away – create a space you can feel comfortable. Nobody else will be there. Make it yours. Wake your motivation by doing something that builds the perfect situation to make your inspiration flow.
If this means the room needs to look like an Arabian Harem or an Abbey cell, so be it. Rumors are that Barbara Cartland spoke her books on Dictaphone, within the silk and tulle of her Barbie pink bedroom.
I have to admit, writing romance within a romantic surrounding is one thing, but building a room that rots my teeth (sickly sweet) would be taking it a little too far. But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t suit another writer. As the saying goes, ‘To each his own’.
To end this article, I’d like to quote one more famous and excellent writer:
“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.” – Stephen King
Are you suffering from writer’s block? Are you stuck with your writing? Should you be creative in some way and your brain is just “blank”? Kimberely Crawford offers 20 amazing writing prompts in case you need them.