Writerly Stuff: Writer’s Block

Is there such a thing?

Some people strongly swear by it and treat it much like a disease in need of a cure.  I have heard plenty of cures, and some are more fantastic than others.  It reminds me of the days of the Bubonic plague in Europe. 

You know, there were people back then who swore the plague was spread by the smell of death.  On the one hand, it encouraged them to dispose of the dead rapidly—which was a good thing.  On the other hand, people doused themselves in perfume and hung strings of fresh picked flowers around their necks so all they could smell was lilac and honeysuckle – or whatever.  I am not sure if the aroma of all that perfume might have been worse.  I am one who avoids those counters at the entrance to department stores.  But I was thinking, the next time you suffer from writer’s block, try hanging a string of fresh cut flowers around your neck.  It might not help, but at least you will smell good for a day or two.

Of course, some people steadfastly deny that writer’s block is real.  You’re just being lazy, they might say.  Buckle down and get back to work.  Sadly, we all know someone who never seems to be bothered by the block disease.  How frustrating!

I can only speak for myself, but what I have discovered is when my work comes to a grinding halt (and all halts should grind) it is because something in my work is not working.  My conscious mind doesn’t know this or see it, but my subconscious will not be fooled.  Somewhere in chapter three (or so) I didn’t set things properly or I started down a different road and left it to dead end.  Maybe one of my characters changed like from worm to butterfly without sufficient time in the cocoon. 

Somewhere, somehow I got off track and occasionally a re-read is all it takes for the mistake to jump out at me.  Sometimes, though, I have to set the work aside and work on something else, or I at least have to sleep on it to grasp the problem.

Now, I am not saying writer’s block is real or illusion.  And I understand how it might be caused by any number of factors from too much stress to too many distractions to too much muchness going on.  But I suggest if like Dorothy you are looking for your heart’s desire, you first try looking no further than your own back yard.  It may well be you missed it or got off somewhere in the work itself and your soul is making your fingers take a time out until it is fixed. 

What is your take on this?

4 thoughts on “Writerly Stuff: Writer’s Block

  1. Everyone doesn’t mean the same thing when they talk about writer’s block. For some, it means that they can’t find anything to write about. Your description is more probably more apt for most writers. I wonder if “writer’s block” isn’t just a way to avoid figuring out what the real problem is. Everybody wants a “fix,” so all kinds of suggestions for beating writer’s block are offered and tried. Sometimes what’s really needed is slack time for the mind to process the problem and work through it to a solution. That’s all on an unconscious level, so for someone who thinks they should always be in charge at a conscious level, that’s not an option.

    By the way, everyone knows that the bubonic plague was caused by bad night air. So keep those windows closed!

    • Sometimes, even for the conscious controllers, it can help to “sleep” on it. But this is me speaking for myself. If someone else needs a different fix, that is fine. I am fortunate, though. My windows are closed because we are still running the air conditioning.

      • I sometimes feel blocked and you’re right, it’s usually because there’s something that needs fixing in what I’ve written – a plot turn, a character, a situation, something that makes me feel like I’ve just gone down a dead end and need to find a way to reverse back up to the point where it went wrong and take a different route. Sleeping on it helps. Starting to write something completely different helps – writing anything at all, even a blog about an unrelated topic. Blocks for me don’t usually last longer than a couple of days – unless I start worrying about them.

        It’s more common for me to have the other problem, that I know what I want to write but real life happens instead and I can’t get to point where I have a couple of hours by myself to get on with the writing. Oh, and when that happens, it can take a couple of hours just to key back in to what I wanted to write.

        The last few weeks have been hectic and while in principle I should be doing about 1000 words/day to finish off my current project, most days I’ve been lucky to manage 150. Highest has been 350, lowest 5 (one sentence!). Sometimes life is like that and I just have faith it will come right soon… If I worry about it, it’ll only be unproductive stress.

  2. For me, those days of low or no production can run into weeks, but I’ve trained myself not to worry about it. I keep the problem at the back of my mind, take it regularly to look at it and see if it’s doing anything. If not, I go on to another project or reading. Very often, reading that doesn’t even seem related to the problem block will trigger an insight that lets me finally get on with it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s