Monday, May 3, 2010

Writing Myth #1

Now that poetry month's over with, I have some thoughts that I've been gathering about the writing process for the past month I'd like to share with you.

Since Gracia brought the subject up in the comments, I've been thinking a lot about what makes us tick as writers.

I was listening to the podcast "I Should Be Writing" by Mur Lafferty awhile ago, and I heard Mur interviewing Neil Gaiman. It was enlightening, and because I listened to it, I no longer believe in writer's block.

Writing Myth #1: Writer's block doesn't exist.

If I am to be a professional writer (and I do want to be), then I have to tell myself that writer's block doesn't exist.

Dentists don't get dentist's block. Truck drivers don't get driver's block. Why should writer's get writer's block?
Most of us who write are of course writing for the fun of it. I mean, I certainly hope no one out there is saying to themselves "Gee, I want to make writing my career because I want to make a lot of money." (Because odds are you won't make a lot of money.) So we don't make it our job because we think it'd be a good paying job. We do it because we like it.

But at the same time, writing is work. It's hard, it takes time, and is an investment. So now whenever I'm tempted to say "I have writer's block," instead I think to myself "I just don't feel like going to work today." (And of course, the appropriate action is to go to work anyway, even when you don't feel like it. That's why it's a job.)

Neil Gaiman had an interesting idea to avoid feeling like you don't want to go to work (aka, to avoid writer's block....even though it doesn't exist). I'm going to try to put this into practice:

Have several projects going at once of different genres, lengths, themes, etc. because when you say you have writer's block, it usually just means that you've hit a snag on your current project. If you don't feel like writing a certain work, go work on something else. Then at least you'll always be writing and will never be blocked.

That being said, there are times when writer's need to take a break. Writing is hard work.
If I am writing a 100,000 word novel, that's 100,000 words that I need to decide which order they go in, which ones get cut, etc. That's at least 100,000 decisions. My brain can only handle making so many decisions at one time before my decision maker gets broken. Also, if there are a lot of little or big life decisions that I have to make, it's also harder to make decisions about my writing.

How to tell if you need to take a break from writing:

1. All your writing starts to talk about writing. Solution: Time to go out there and get some real life experiences to write about!

2. Your pets and/or family desperately need food. Solution: Put down the pen and bring home the bacon!

3. You can't remember when you last hung out with friends or had a good belly laugh with another human being (fictional characters, no matter how hilariously written, don't count). Solution: Host or go to a party or call up someone and ask them to hang out!

4. When people ask you how you're doing, you reply by telling them your word count. Solution: Try to familiarize yourself with normal conversation tactics again!

5. You start describing in your head (or out loud) everything you do in either story form or a soliloquy. Solution: Cut it out! *Reesha stared at her own words with a growing feeling of hypocrisy. "I think I need some tea," she thought.*

In all seriousness, only you will know when you need to take a break from writing. But that break from writing, IMHO, should never be writer's block. In fact, I've heard it's often best to take breaks right during the peak of inspiration, so that when you come back to your writing, you have something compelling to start you going again.

Tell all, wonderful readers!
What are your thoughts about writer's block? Do you believe it exists? What do you do to avoid it or get out of it? Or, what excuses do you end up making the most to avoid writing?
I usually end up playing computer or phone games and then realize I meant to spend time writing.


  1. Lol about number 4 and 5.

    Personally, I don't believe in writer's block. I even posted on it way back when I started my blog (seems like a long time ago). I think we all definitely come to a point where our WIP gets challenging. I usually try to make myself work through it. It might mean I start at the beginning and read through what I've written. Or possibly skipping to a chapter further ahead to write there. I have a small handful of little things I try but I usually force myself to continue on that manuscript in some form.

  2. I can comment on the opposite: Stravinsky once said that there are times when the 'creative saliva is flowing'.

  3. I'm not sure if I believe in writer's block or not. Honestly, no offense intended, I think your proof that it does not exist is pretty ridiculous and doesn't prove anything. You said that truck drivers don't get truck driver's block, so writers shouldn't get writers block. Well, that's like saying that office workers don't have to work in the fields, so why should farmers work in the fields? Or, Businessmen don't have to bring oxygen masks to work, so why should a deep-sea diver? I think that point is rather irrelevant, as each job is different.

  4. Good point, Gracia.
    I guess what I really mean is that writer's block is no different than just not wanting to go to work, it's just that it has its own fancy name.

    People will say they have writer's block and then write two, three, even five hundred words on their blog about writer's block. They don't have writer's block. They are just paused on their current project.

    Obviously my post is not solid, without-a-doubt proof that writer's block doesn't 'exist'. That phrase was merely to give myself (and others) a good encouraging kick in the pants to not use writer's block as an excuse for not writing.

    You are right that all jobs are different, and sometimes even the same job is different across different companies. But the metaphor needn't go that far. (Unless of course it's helpful to you. Then by all means, share with us how it seems to you.) :)

  5. I see your point. And, yes, I think in some cases it is just an excuse. But, really, all things can be excuses. There are times when people really do wanna write, but can't find the words. What is that called then, if not writers block?