Writer’s block doesn’t exist
“Writer’s block is a condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work.”
The “condition” was first described in 1947 by psychoanalyst Edmund Bergler. Since then, countless books have been written and a myriad of theories and coping strategies have been offered to writers to help them “cure” writer’s block.
If all these so-called cures, remedies and strategies work, why is writer’s block still one of the most common complaints among writers? Because writer’s block is a term that is so widely used — so prevalent — we can’t get past it.
Labelling our process as such only boxes us in. It stops us from moving past it because we have fooled ourselves into believing that writer’s block is it.
Writer’s block redefined
My theory is we feel blocked because we may have become:
complacent — smug and overly confident;
egotistical — twisted perspective (judgement, doubts); or
inflexible — unwilling to change or compromise.
Or, it’s because we’ve stopped listening as a result of fear. All it takes is that split second where a writer pauses and wonders what’s next. If they are listening, they will know. If they are not listening they will stop writing and start trying to write.
All of a sudden they’ve laid the first brick on the writer’s block foundation. From there it builds strength as coping strategies are sought. Fear, frustration and hopelessness plaster cement over this block and another one is adhered to it. Before you know it you’re boxed in, having dedicated all your attention to defining and curing the block itself.
Break free from the label “writer’s block”
I’ve often complained about feeling blocked. I will do this less as a result of an experience I had while working on the rewrite of my novel, Serious Undulations.
I had written the first page to a chapter a number of times, deleting it in frustration each time. I resisted deleting the writing because I’d become attached to it. I was being complacent, egotistical and inflexible.
I realized that I felt blocked not because I didn’t know what to write, but because I did know what to write. I didn’t want to write IT. However, I had the inclination that at that specific point in the novel, the reader would want to witness the discussion I ended up writing.
Once I figured that out the writing flowed. My advice is to listen carefully while you’re writing. Notice when you stop and don’t immediately start laying down the foundation for writer’s block.
There is no cure for writer’s block. You can’t cure what doesn’t exist. Find a new metaphor for this process that isn’t so indicative of permanence or of building something.
Be honest with yourself about why you feel blocked. Listen. Be open. Redefine that moment when you pause and wonder what’s next. It’s called writing.
Care to share your opinion?
What metaphor would you use to describe this process?
Photo credit: Davina Haisell