The Psychology or Madness of Writers Block

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emilycross
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The Psychology or Madness of Writers Block

Post by emilycross » January 14th, 2010, 7:05 pm

Even though Writer’s Block is the most dreaded thing in the writing universe, it’s also one of the most discussed topics. In the past year, I’ve gotten quite a lot of experience of what it is to be a writer who doesn’t write – a paradoxical but also an unpleasant thing to be. So, what can I say that hasn’t already been said about writer’s block? Absolutely nothing to be perfectly honest, but perhaps I can pour old wine in new bottles and look at it in a different light – a psychological one, more specifically an abnormal psychology one? So the fact is, I wish I could say that the following post was created specifically for Nathan’s competition but the very sad thing is that this idea of laying out Writer’s Block as if it was a psychological condition was a pathetic sort of procrastination/distraction type of exercise that I cooked up (a few weeks ago) while staring at my blank page and pulling my hair out. I actually thought said piece was sort of funny *shakes head sadly* So, read on and gaze upon what WB can drive a (kind of) sane writer to do. Then completely disregard it all as complete psycho-obsessive babble – and I’ll give you my ‘cure’ (which worked for me) at the end.

1. What is Writer’s Block?

Writer's block, a condition associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. Often the concept of 'writing block' is described and applied in a general manner which does not take into account the concept of the 'ability' that has been lost and the time in which this has lasted? This ability to produce new work is 'creativity'. Creativity - being the ability or power to build/create into existence, to invest with a new form, to produce through imaginative skill, to make or bring into existence something new.

In regards to Writer's Block - there are two common complaints which relate to the loss of creativity and the occurrence of writer's block - lack of ideas or lack of ability to portray ideas.

Type 1: Lack of Ideas/Plot

Symptoms of this type often involve the writer being left with a feeling of inferiority/inadequacy and despair - as their purpose is not being fulfilled. Unlike type 2 writer's block, type 1 has repercussions for type 2 with writers not being able to write at all due to lack of plot/Ideas.

Treatment

Advice for lack of ideas/plot usually includes that this statement is 'not true' - that ideas are 'everywhere' etc. - which often leads type 1 writer to feel more inadequate to nonWB writers as their perceptions of the world and 'ideas' are not coming into fruition or being realised - no matter how hard they look.

Other common advice includes writers being advised to go to prompt generators, go for a walk, look at pictures etc. Writers are also often told that there are no new ideas, and to stop focusing on this aspect of writing - A 'stop thinking' approach.
The prevalence of this condition among the writing population indicates however that the advice/treatment that currently exists may not provide a 'cure' but may temporarily alleviate symptoms. Often like other 'creativity-loss' conditions, time is the best cure.

Type 2: Lack of ability to portray ideas/plots


Type 2 WB, most commonly known as 'blank page syndrome' is a condition commonly experienced by both experienced and novice writers. The symptoms that classify this condition often include low word count and slow progression with work. Although writers have an abundance of ideas/plots - their words are paralysed.

Within Type 2 WB, there are two subgroups. 'Self-delete', where the sufferer writes, reviews and deletes work and 'blank stare' where sufferers make no progress or don't write at all - often resulting in a 'blank stare'. Both subtypes lead to feelings of inadequacy which often result in low self-confidence and low self-esteem which causes a vicious circle to occur. The power of this vicious circle is emphasised because one of the main causes of this condition is due to the writer's overly high expectations of their abilities i.e. 'harsh self-critic'.

This condition is quite common in the writing community, with symptoms ranging from chronic and severe to temporary and mild depending on the individual and their circumstances

Treatment

Common advice for type 2 WB often includes 'BIC' which stands for Butt In Chair. Practitioners of this technique advise setting a regular routine, in which the writer writes in a fixed place, at a regular time, daily. The underlining concept is developing 'habit' - possible this concerns making regular neurologically pathways so writing becomes easier with practice and repetition. Although this advice takes time and commitment, anecdotal evidence has shown it to be successful.

So, enough of that psycho bit. . .


What can you do if you have Writer’s Block (apart from obsessing about it so much that you actually take the time to dress it up as a psychological condition!?!) – I can only talk of my own experience. I’ve walked away. I’ve taken a break. I’ve carried a pen and notebook with me everywhere I went (I have no money – too many notebooks for too many bags). I’ve gotten computer viruses from looking at prompt websites/generators. I’ve sat staring at a computer for hours till my butt is numb. I’ve done micro-fiction. I’ve listened to music. I’ve read.

So, what can you do?

In my opinion, based on my own experience - stop stressing (and obsessing) and realise it’s out of your control. Once you realise that, you’ll be surprised where your mind decides to wander and what begins to percolate.

Like the song goes: Letting go is the hardest part.

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TrishTash
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Re: The Psychology or Madness of Writers Block

Post by TrishTash » January 14th, 2010, 8:09 pm

I love this post! I can sympathise completely. And my solution ended up being the same as yours. I think I'm finally over it, because I stopped worrying about it.

I didn't believe in Writers' Block until it happened to me about a year ago. The trigger? One of my daughter's gerbils died after I'd spent 48 hours nursing it on my lap and feeding it 'small animal critical care formula' every two hours. I felt a complete failure at not being able to save it, and stupid for feeling that way. It was just a tiny rodent, after all. The day it became ill I stopped writing - planning to start again it when it was 'better'. But it didn't get better. That was all it took.

But the more I stressed about not being able to write, the worse it became. And when I stopped beating myself about the head with one of my many notebooks and decided if I was meant to write, I eventually would again, I was on the road to recovery.

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emilycross
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Re: The Psychology or Madness of Writers Block

Post by emilycross » January 15th, 2010, 5:43 am

TrishTash wrote:

But the more I stressed about not being able to write, the worse it became. And when I stopped beating myself about the head with one of my many notebooks and decided if I was meant to write, I eventually would again, I was on the road to recovery.
Thanks TrishTash - I was the exact same. Nothing as tragic as a pet dying but in my case i think it had more to do with exhaustion from my courses which felt sapped me of all my creativity. Only recently i basically stopped struggling, once i gave up control -then pressure to try and write was gone, and then it seems ideas starting to come back and words started to be written :)

Thanks for your lovely comment

Terry
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Re: The Psychology or Madness of Writers Block

Post by Terry » January 15th, 2010, 11:33 am

Great post! I can relate to this. Best of luck in the contest.

Sophie Minter
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Re: The Psychology or Madness of Writers Block

Post by Sophie Minter » January 15th, 2010, 12:39 pm

Well, what got me out of my writers block was to discover why I loved writing in the first place. So, another words, I had to forget about the agents, my prose, plot, story, and just write because I love to write. Of course agents, and the way you write are important, but I don't think about these things anymore while I'm working on my manuscript or it will never get done.

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emilycross
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Re: The Psychology or Madness of Writers Block

Post by emilycross » January 15th, 2010, 12:51 pm

Thanks Terry!

Sophie - I completely agree, in the AW forum, one of the members Ken said something which i actually stuck in my signature:
... think improvement, rather than publication, and your confidence issues will evaporate.
I became so concerned about the world of publication, i think it impacted on my world of writing (if that makes sense) so now (although maybe this is pessimistic) I think i'll never be published - that way i'm destressing my writing so now i can right craply etc. without thinking i'm a failure

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