A Note on Writer’s Block
May 22, 2012 § 2 Comments
…We’ve all been there.
Writer’s block is a funny concept, and one that, I would argue, is somewhat misunderstood. When considering writer’s block, most people envision hands furiously darting across a keyboard (or piece of paper, if that’s how you work), eyes alight with that focus, that I-know-exactly-what-I’m…and then nothing. Suddenly, every possible plot twist or character choice is nowhere to be found. Your mind is wiped clean, or, as the term “Writer’s Block” suggests, you reach an impasse. Beyond that wall, who knows what adventures and mind-blowing mysteries await! But for now, you’re stuck staring at ugly concrete.
Writer’s block for me rarely happens in this fashion. And even if you feel it does for you, you may (just may) be misdiagnosing the problem. You don’t get halfway along in a story and then suddenly have no idea what to do next. At least, not totally. You know your character, you know this story. I’m a firm believer in the let-the-story-guide principle, so I’m not suggesting you know the ending at the beginning and therefore can’t get stuck. (But then again, if you think you know where you’re going to turn out from the beginning of your story, that might be why you hit that aforementioned wall. Be wary of preconceived endings!) If you are smack-dab in the middle of a story and suddenly feel a little unsure of how best to continue, maybe you’re done for the day. Take a break. Go drink some tea and read. Look at it tomorrow morning.
But what writer’s block really boils down to is a both simple and fabulously frustrating and tricky little word: trust. Think about it: when you’re in the zone, you’re not slowing yourself down with self-doubt and countless, Well, am I sure?-type questions. Whatever you’re doing feels right. Not just right, but exactly what makes sense with that particular character in his/her particular circumstances. When you find yourself grinding to a halt, it’s often for the reason that you suddenly start to waver. Subconciously (or even conciously, if you’re like me) you start to think: Do I even know what I’m doing? What if I’m wrong? What if this sucks? And that quickly turns into fear to continue. So, you stop. You hit the wall. You half-hope the wall sticks around so you don’t have to learn the answer to those questions.
I usually encounter this trust/fear dynamic right at the beginning of a new project. Avoidance becomes my middle name. I’ll start right after I get a snack. Clear my desk. Check Facebook. (When you reach this place, just give up on writing that day. Nothing drains the creative mind like the overwhelming amount of mindless, distracting and addictive social media sites nowadays.)
Instead of admitting I don’t trust my abilities, however, I end up blaming the long-abused Well, I don’t have any ideas. I don’t know what to do. And so, in essence, I run away from my writing. I run away from the fear of failure. I run away from myself.
The only way to get over that wall, that block, is to trust. Trust that you know what you’re doing, and then occasional snags are not only normal; they are in no way a reflection of your writing ability. You do no suck because every moment isn’t that magical in-the-zone beautiful, beautiful place. You are a writer. You are a good writer. Trust yourself to deliver this story. Trust yourself to respect your characters.
Perhaps when it comes down to it, pushing through all the possible obstacles of writing comes down to just a few things: faith, trust, and a little bit of pixie dust.