Yeah, it’s true. I long ago decided I could solve the problem or riddle of writer’s block by simply not believing in it. As I recall I’d worked it out this way: If I refused to pay attention to or worry about writer’s block it wouldn’t happen. By and large that’s worked out well for me. It’s also a fine example of how I can turn denial into a useful skill.
I’ve been writing professionally for longer than I care to admit, and sometime well into my first decade I realized I could trust what I wrote, I could usually trust editors to make me look good, and I could also trust that I would write. Although I wrote for a wide variety of clients, including myself, I’d almost never get really stuck.
I keep a list of ideas which helps. I work to get new ideas on that list as they show up. I long ago told my mind to keep having ideas and assured it that I was responsible for sorting out the good ones from the bad. I’ve learned that a shower will often result in breaking through when I do get mired down; so will a nap. And if neither of those work I take a walk or put turn the computer off until the next morning.
Yes, I talk to myself
You probably caught me saying ‘long ago I told my mind to keep having ideas…’ I suspect my first words were probably to myself. I belong to more than one 12 Step groups because all but two have made my life easier and more fun. One just didn’t work for me even though I worked their program as best I could for at least six months and neither saw nor felt any improvement in my self-diagnosed problem. The other actually tried to talk me out of talking to myself. When I told them I had a whole committee in my head they thought I was nuts, maybe even dangerous. This despite there’s absolutely nothing in the original 12 step literature that suggests talking to one’s self is dangerous. In fact I’m pretty sure that body of writing is silent on the topic.
It was while studying NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) that I came across the notion I could tell my brain to have an idea I could write about in the morning. It turns out I can use other time frames, from as short as ‘when I finish making coffee’ to a date a week or a month in the future. Try it if you haven’t. You may be pleasantly surprised.
We often have more choice than we realize
Okay, I’ll concede that there are people who genuinely suffer from what most would call Writer’s Block. I’m not really saying it doesn’t exist, although it certainly doesn’t seem to exist for me and many others.
Wikipedia has a fairly lengthy article on Writer’s Block which points a lot toward unexamined mental ideas and/or physical injury. A writer I worked with was a prolific article writer and felt he was hopelessly blocked in novel writing. I worked with him long enough to see that he had some idea he would or should write a perfect novel. He couldn’t define what that perfection would look like, although it seemed he thought for him in was in character development. After a time I wondered if some of his problem was he didn’t have a deadline for his novel. Nor had he ever developed and circulated a book proposal which, if it sold, would have given him a deadline.
Lord knows, if you look at my hard drive you’ll find a ton of unfinished writing from limericks I couldn’t quite get to rhyme to detective novels with a smart, sexy female protagonist. If I’ve got a type of writer’s block it’s that I plot poorly. But mostly I know in my soul I haven’t done the deep kind of hard work on self and writing I need to do because writing non-fiction comes easily for me.
Although I’ve attempted several, I’ve only submitted once — a romance novel! I got a personal rejection too with a couple of complements and a plea to see my next one. Arghhhh, my next one! I’d gotten pretty bored with my first, except for a couple of hot sex scenes… the thought of writing another simply didn’t interest me.
And that’s exactly the sort of thing I mean when I say we have more choice than we think we do. My writing friend who hid behind perfectionism, me in claiming I don’t plot well, are both making a choice not to write those. Which is fine. I’m glad I’m more or less aware I have the choice because it makes it easier to write something else. I’m also glad I realized I wouldn’t recognize perfection if it knocked on the door and introduced itself. That allows me to leave work unfinished, which helps too.
Lots disagree, but not all
If you search here on Medium about writer’s block you’ll find lots about Writer’s Block. Many disagree with me, but you’ll also find more than a few who at least mostly think like I do.
In other words, you’ve got choice!
I’d like to hear your comments.
Write well and often,