I was having quite a bit of trouble coming up with a topic for today’s post. It’s been a normal, if busy, week at work – I have nothing of interest to report from that front. School is school. The writing of the short story progresses very slowly now. It seemed I had nothing to say, until I realized I have writer’s block!
Which, I thought, might make a great topic for a short post.
But, if I’m honest with myself, I don’t believe in writer’s block. Over the years, I’ve learned it’s mostly a myth we writers (and especially we wannabe writers) have conjured up to justify our lack of productivity. It’s convenient, when the words just aren’t coming, to be able to say to yourself: “It’s not my fault, I just have writer’s block.” That’s a close cousin to: “The muse isn’t working today” or “I’m just not feeling inspired”.
Here’s a clue: a “muse” is an imagined (and presumably non-real) goddess of art and beauty in Greek myth. It’s probably not good business practice to base our actions and decisions on Greek mythology.
I came to my realization that writer’s block isn’t real in High School. I had an essay assignment to do, but I just couldn’t figure out how to start. Nothing was working. I knew I had writer’s block, but I couldn’t afford writer’s block: the assignment was due in a couple days!
I needed a way out, so I sat down and started writing a story, just to get the creative juices flowing. The story starred me, fighting a dark and mysterious enemy that looked like a human-shaped black blob of ink. We fought with pens for our swords. The enemy, I knew, was the nefarious Writer’s Block trying to destroy me. But with each slice I cut away at it, the true enemy beneath was revealed. Suddenly, I was no longer fighting a mysterious black blob, but a creature with my own face! I was staring into a mirror, and the thought rang out: “Behold, thy enemy is thyself!” Suddenly angered, I shattered the mirror with my pen-sword. The true nature of my enemy was exposed to the light of day, and I was victorious.
Once I finished writing the story, I was in awe of what my subconscious had revealed to me. I hadn’t started out intending to find that writer’s block was inside me – I only wanted to defeat it. And once defeated, the words for the essay I needed to write came easily. Since then, whenever I’ve thought I had writer’s block, I always remember this story.
There might be many causes of writer’s block, but they almost always boil down to a single root cause: I don’t want to write. I suspect much is the same of others. Why might that be so? Perhaps because what I must write is boring to me. Or because I’m mentally exhausted from other things that I’ve had to do. Or I don’t like the direction I’ve been going. Or I can’t remember some crucial detail that I think is important to what I need to write. Whatever the excuse, the problem is entirely internal. The solution: recognise and accept that this is so, and force myself to write, just the same.
For today’s post, it was much the same. It’s been a less-than-stellar week at work, and I’ve grown increasingly stressed over how to proceed with my future career planning. I was allowing these other concerns to crowd out my desire to write. I just couldn’t think of anything in my humdrum week that was worthy of spending a few words over. But those excuses were insufficient. I just needed to sit and write.
It may be true that, before continuing to write, you may need to push away and focus on gathering some data or information that you must use for what you will write. And that’s okay: doing so (if you are indeed focused on doing so, and not dithering to do other trivial things) is still productive time. But allowing yourself to ignore writing because you imagine yourself to have “writer’s block” is doing yourself a disservice.
Find the courage to overcome the monster within. Happy writing.