October 9, 2011

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: There Is No Such Thing As “Writer’s Block”!

If writing were religion, then there would be two primary tenets:

  • To be a writer, you have to write.

The second is like it:

  • Writer’s block can destroy you.

If we hold these truths to be self-evident, then I will have to submit to being bound and burned as a heretic, because I think they’re a loada.

First Tenet Attack: Writers can be researchers, planners, outliners, readers, critiquers, and reviewers. They can also be re-writers, revisers and cross-outers. No writer I know simply writes (unless you want to count the infinite number of monkeys typing on an infinite number of laptops producing the complete works of Shakespeare – must have been some editor to tackle THAT job!)

Second Tenet Attack: I don’t believe in “writer’s block” because I’ve never had it.

I can hear someone in the audience shouting, “Just because you’ve never had writer’s block – and I think you’re lying! – doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t have it!”

Wrong. Even though % of writers surveyed say that they have experienced “writer’s block”, not a single one can say exactly what or why it is. They simply fling out the phrase that is unique to the writing world and expect the rest of us to coo and cluck in sympathy and offer pats on backs and anecdotes of others we’ve known who’ve survived “writer’s block” – rather than accusing them.

“Accusing them of what?” the heckler shouts. “They have writer’s block!”

I’d sigh. Writers invoke the phrase in a way that Roman Catholics invoke the Blessed Virgin.

Before I tell you what I’d accuse them of, I’d ask a few questions. Since many writers would never THINK to question a self-diagnosis of “writer’s block” (now what’s wrong with THAT idea?), I’ll ask them:

1) Do you feel safe in your home? (Always the first question out of a doctor’s mouth these days – and not without good cause!)

2) What were you doing when you came down with the initial symptoms?

3) Have you had any contact recently with others exhibiting the same symptoms?

4) Please describe your symptoms exactly.

5) Have you noticed blocks in other areas of your life: Are you having regular bowel and bladder movements? Have you had trouble getting or maintaining an erection? Have you had trouble keeping food down? Have you had trouble drinking alcoholic beverages? Have you stopped watching professional sporting events on TV or online? Have you had trouble chatting with friends on Faceplant or texting?Please describe your symptoms precisely.

6) If someone can answer these questions with complete honesty and still claim that they have “writer’s block”, then they are lying and deserve the accusation of being lazy, unprofessional, childish or ridiculous.

Just in case you were wondering? I’m not the only heretic in the writing community here are some others: Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones); Philip Pullman (The Golden Compass); Steve Martin (The Pleasure of my Company, A Novel); Frank Herbert (Dune); Jeffery Deaver (Carte Blanche); Roy Blount, Jr. (The Joy of Text); Mary Garden (“Can meditation be bad for you?”); William Stafford (The Darkness Around Us Is Deep: Select Poems); Andy Ihnatko (Chicago Sun-Times’ tech columnist) – I’m sure I could find others, but so can you.

You can also find 2,500,000 sites devoted to breaking it if you insist on having it.

Image: http://steven-dean.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/writers_block1-256x300.jpg


Linda B said...

I also don't believe in writer's block as such. When I am "stuck" on one project, I just turn my attention to something else so that my brain can have time to figure out the solution to my problem. If I'm not sure how to proceed, I take that as a sign that my subconscious needs time to work and I'll just work on another story or do some editing until I get an answer--and I always do.

GuyStewart said...

Yup! Exactly what I do, too! In fact, I work on at least projects at a time, oftentimes totally different. One of the reasons I do all my blog days is to keep me constantly working on different things...