I know I’m a little late to the party for YA Highway’s Road Trip Wednesday. The topic was How do you beat writer’s block? I scanned a lot of the responses, and then I had to think for a long time about why I disagreed with most of the posts.
So here goes:
Most of the bloggers weren’t, in my opinion, talking about writer’s block. When they responded that they go for a walk, listen to music, brainstorm with a writer friend or hope for inspiration in the shower, they were talking about the creative process. Specifically, the normal ups and downs of the creative process. For some reason (cultural, based on movies, dunno) we believe that writing (and the creative process in general) is this forward moving, smooth upward arc of progress. That’s progress, not process; process is full of fits and starts and backtracking and cutting 50,000 words because they went in the wrong direction or trashing the outline because it’s just not going to work.
But I got to tell you — that’s normal. That’s what the writing process is. Sometimes writing involves staring at a blank screen or a blank page for five hours and not writing a single thing. That’s still writing, not writer’s block. Sometimes writing involves staring into the air at nothing your friends and family can see. Sometimes it involves walking around the block. That’s all writing process, not writer’s block.
Writer’s block is like grief. It’s a dull heavy blanket over all your thoughts. It’s the feeling of dust in your soul, dry, powdery dust that doesn’t remember the touch of moisture, much less what it’s like to have green things grow in it.
Writer’s block is knowing that you once wrote, but you can’t now. It’s knowing that the words you wrote used to sparkle for you, maybe like a rough chunk of ore, but with a little nugget of something, that, once hacked at, cut and polished, will sparkle.
Writer’s block is wanting to write and having nothing. NOTHING. There’s no connection to the secret garden, fairyland, the place where dreams come from, or the girls in the basement, whatever you call that place that the words and ideas usually well out of. Writer’s block is wanting to write, knowing it will make you feel better and you still can’t.
Writer’s block, like grief, can only be healed by time and the persistent, coaxing hope that you will heal. The hope, no, the faith, that somewhere there is a trickle of water, of blessing, of dreams with your name on it and that someday it will come back to you.
There are things you can do to help time, but none of them on their own will help: taking care of yourself, however that translates for you; exercise; filling your cup with experiences that will one day feed your writing again; reading, if you can, or seeking out other forms of entertainment.
So if you’re in the midst of creative process, and need to brainstorm or sit back for a few minutes or days, that’s great! That’s normal and stuff is happening.
But if you’re in that other place, I’m sorry. It sucks like hell.