Writer's Block is a Lie

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
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Joined: January 14th, 2010, 7:43 pm

Writer's Block is a Lie

Post by SofieBird » January 14th, 2010, 8:27 pm

The concept of "Writer's Block" is one of the most self-pandering excuses in our procrastination toolbox. "Oh, I can't write anything, I have Writer's Block!". Cue dramatic sigh, sweeping exit stage right. When deployed correctly, it can give you an apparently valid excuse to not write for years. But that's what it is: an excuse. There's no such thing as writer's block.

Have you ever heard of "Engineer's Block"? Or perhaps "Race Car Driver's Block"? No? What about "Nuclear Physicist's Block"? We have the only profession with a world-wide recognised excuse for not being able to do our job. Even journalists don't get a look-in - any journo claiming they couldn't turn in their article due to writer's block would be an ex-journo before they'd finished the sentence. Writers are special. We get special treatment, we get cuddles and sympathy when what we really need is a slap upside the ear and a command to get back to work.

I won't tell you you don't feel 'blocked', like there's nothing inside to write, no way out of the corner you've just written yourself into, or no way to rediscover your character's voice. That would be absurd - every writer I know, myself included, has come up against that feeling at least once. A friend of mine routinely suffers it around page four of everything she writes. For about two years, she wouldn't write anything longer than three pages. But it's not a 'block'. There's no physical impediment to your neurons suddenly preventing you from connecting words into sentences. So what is it?


Fear of "not getting it right". Of it not being good enough. Sit down and examine what's actually going through your head when you "can't think of what to write". You can think of things. You can even hear the starts of sentences in your head, but you're dismissing them almost instantly as "not good enough". You don't want to write something that will turn out to be the wrong decision.

But while you're sitting there carefully not making the wrong decision, your novel isn't going anywhere. And the longer you stall, the more the fear builds in your head. Now, because you're taking all this time over it, there has to be a brilliant answer. Something that will exonerate you for not writing for two weeks over this one paragraph. But no solution descends from the heavens. You're stuck, because you're not willing to give half-good ideas enough of a chance to grow into great ideas. So what do you do?

Write. Write anything. If you can't think of the right direction to take, take the wrong one. Even if it's bad. Even if it couldn't possibly work for the novel and doesn't even really make sense. A giant banana descends from the mothership to incite a riot. Sure, it might mean writing a whole lot of words you're never going to use, but you'll move forward on the novel, which gives your subconscious a chance to bang the rocks together and find a better solution. You'll explore an idea that may give you the seeds to a much better idea. You'll teach yourself that fear doesn't stop you from writing - and the more you learn that lesson, the less you'll feel that fear.

First drafts are full of wrong decisions and things that aren't good enough. That's what first drafts are for. Your first draft is never going to be perfect - allow yourself some mistakes. Don't get it 'right' - get it written.

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Joined: January 14th, 2010, 9:12 pm

Re: Writer's Block is a Lie

Post by writingbug » January 14th, 2010, 9:14 pm

Not sure if I agree with this one, but I like the sentiment...

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