I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I seem to have hit a little slump.
There have been days recently when I didn’t post a blog entry, in part for lack of time and in part for lack of inspiration. Also, lately, I feel that my writing lacks the energy it used to have and I don’t want to subject readers to lethargic dronings.
I’ve been at this blogging project for 16 months now, having written 385 pieces. Inspiration used to rush at me faster than I could mash it into the keyboard. Lately? Not so much.
Over the weekend, I tackled a small writing project that gave me the same sense of paralysis. Eventually I found the energy to hand in to the client what I think was good work, but not without teeth-grinding anxiety.
This isn’t like me.
As I researched punctuation for Friday’s post, I came upon an interesting perspective on writer’s block. Then another one. Both jumped to the same conclusion: Essentially, quitcherbitchin.
Here’s what author Philip Pullman said in 2006 on the subject of writer’s block:
“Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block, and doctors don’t get doctor’s block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it?”
A bass player named Paul Wolfe wrote a piece recently on his blog, which worked from the same premise—that there’s no such thing as writer’s block—also using the plumber analogy. It’s worth a glance if you can relate.
So if there is no such thing as writer’s block, what has gotten a hold of me?
When I approached my recent client project, you would have thought I had decided to try skydiving. Profound fear consumed me.
I moved my computer from my office to the dining room table so I’d have room to spread out and to breathe. I set my papers out neatly. I took a shower. I returned to the computer. I straightened some knickknacks. I sat up straight, put my fingers on the keyboard and took a deep breath. I opened a six-ounce box of SweeTarts, sifted through the candies and ate all the purple and orange ones. Then I arranged the blue ones along the edge of the box, then the red, then the green. By this time my stomach was in my throat and my heart was racing. Utter silliness. This was easy stuff, nothing complicated. As soon as I typed the first word, the others came, but it took me more than eight hours to finish. It was touch and go there for a while.
So it goes with the blog. I don’t wake up with ideas and words to support them the way I used to.
The bass player says if you believe in writer’s block, then it wins. Pullman doesn’t believe in it either.
So maybe it’s just an old fashioned case of jitters.
Maybe I ought to lay off the SweeTarts.
Or maybe it just boils down to this bumper sticker:
9 responses to “Blocked”
YOUR IMAGINARY FRIENDS MAY BE SILENT AT TIMES, BUT YOUR LOYAL READERS LOVE YOUR BLOG. WE ANXIOUSLY AWAIT YOUR COMMENTS AND GOBBLE UP YOUR WORDS AS YOU GOBBLE SWEETARTS! LOVE YA 🙂
I’ve never been written about in the same post as Philip Pullman before – so as a great fan of his writing I’m extremely flattered.
The source of the ‘plumbers block’ analogy I think is Steven Pressfield – and his absolutely indispensable book The War of Art. If you haven’t got it, seriously go get it, it’s a fantastic little book.
Pressfield is also the best authority on ‘writer’s block’ and what it really is – and it’s just a manifestation of your ego trying to protect you. Once you understand it, you just retrain your ego – or outflank it – and you’ll never suffer again.
It can be done….Pressfield points the way!
Thanks, Paul. Your comments were so practical and useful; I will check out Pressfield as well. Normally, my experience squares with what you say about writing professionally–I step up and just attack it head on and rarely encounter a block. In fact, with clients that’s where the content tends to gush. With the blog, though, it’s been drip, drip, drip. I’ll have to have my ego examined.
Something really interesting in what you just wrote.
The majority of what is called Writer’s Block IS the Ego acting to try and protect you from perceived danger – that’s one of the functions that’s been evolved since way back when.
When you’re doing Client Work though, the reason you don’t suffer from Ego driven writer’s block is because the consequences of not delivering the work are more damaging to the ego (refunds, lost clients, bad word of mouth etc) that it’s actually PROTECTING you by getting out of the way and letting you write.
And understanding that opens the door to some tactics to trick the ego and get it onto your side when you want to write! (Make the consequence of NOT WRITING more painful to the ego than the consequence of writing – and it will get out of the way in a heartbeat).
And Pressfield is a must – it’s cheap and readily available, easy to understand and utterly inspirational. There are only two books that I have in physical, audio and Kindle format. The War of Art is one of them.
Give yourself a break. Plumbers and doctors don’t rely on the creative process, which ebbs and flows. It’s not having “difficulty working” — that implies laziness. Artists don’t follow a set of procedures like other professionals do. Sometimes inspiration just doesn’t spark, whether you’re a writer, musician, painter or other creative type. We use a different part of the brain, and none of us really understands it.
Granted, that doesn’t mean you just walk away. There are ways to spark one’s inspiration, but don’t beat yourself up when it isn’t there.
Block or Blah?
For me, when I get stuck writing in a particular story line, it is almost invariably more a case of Writers Blah than Block. In other words I’ve grown temporarily bored with a given topic.
If we were driving across the country, and had an arrival deadline, what would happen if we found a road blocked or a bridge out? We’d look for another route, and would keep going.
I approach the topic from a different direction, and if that doesn’t work, I switch to something more compelling for awhile. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a writer so blocked that he or she could write nothing at all… it is almost always a roadblock for a particular piece.
Luckily there is no end to ideas we can work with temporarily.
I am repeating what some have already said but “begin where you are” and then try again. There are always valleys, hills, and plateaus in everything that we do. I try to listen to this wise advice every day and am successful only some of the time. That’s the secret message by way!
Very interesting post and comments. Lately, just I have been struggling to get something written, I’m reading blog post after blog post from writers who are getting a little burned out. I’m thinking that part of it is the summer blahs. At least it is with me. I’d rather throw in the towel (the beach towel, that is) and head to the beach (five minutes away). Of course, I’d rather head to the beach than do the laundry or clean the house or go to the grocery store or cook dinner, or, or, or…I would love to have some editing gigs, though. Somehow, making money from your writing skills makes you able to push through the writing blahs.
I couldn’t agree more.