Writer’s block. A thing much lamented by virtually every writer of anything ever. But I personally don’t believe in it so hear me out. Perhaps what I have experienced so far would be defined as writer’s block. That’s not to say I haven’t experienced periods of being stuck or overwhelmed or underwhelmed by something I’m writing, I do. In fact, when trying to choose a topic of this week’s Weekly Musing, I found myself at a lost. I have a list of topics but none of them jumped out at me screaming ‘It’s my turn! Pick me, pick me!’ Alas, the topic of writer’s block bubbled to the surface due in part to the tremendous amount of reading I’ve been doing of late rather than actual writing.
But I was not experiencing writer’s block, at least not in my interpretation.
I define writer’s block as the complete and utterly inability to write anything. Surely a writer has something to say that day, week, or month. It may not be very good or even comprehensible but at least something can be written down. One isn’t committed to the first thing slapped onto paper or hammered out on a keyboard. That’s what revision and editing are for; a chance to rework the miserable dribble that dropped out of your mind. To experience that moment of inspiration and say ‘This is what I meant to say all along but couldn’t quite express correctly until now.’
I certainly have been stuck. One piece in particular it took me 12 drafts and over a year to get it just right. The story I had envisioned in my mind hadn’t quite meshed up with what I had written. I took breaks in between drafts, several weeks usually, to allow my brain to concentrate on other projects until I felt ready enough to take another stab at it. I played around with cutting out huge chunks of the story which is when the story finally started clicking. But never once did I think I was in the midst of writer’s block.
I certainly have been overwhelmed at the challenge of a story. An idea that sounded great in my head has paralyzed me with anxiety and fear as I try to translate that idea into a story. I worry about my ability to do justice to the story and the characters. So, I step away for a few moments, get lost in a Wikipedia or IMDB black hole of celebrity nonsense, before telling myself to just write something down. It is a start and doesn’t have to be a perfect product.
And sometimes you just need to realize a piece may need to be abandoned. It could be a permanent detachment or temporary. I’ve learned not everything I write needs to be revised or polished. I don’t do this for projects I want to submit for a contest or anthology rather for one-shot pieces I felt inspired to write. Sometimes just leaving it as a rough draft is all that it requires. I watched an interview with Jess Walter who spoke about working on and off on a project over several years because he just hadn’t developed the emotional maturity to complete it. Once he felt he was ready, he went ahead and finished the project. Doesn’t sound like writer’s block to me.
In conclusion, I say feel free to rid yourself of the term writer’s block. Your creativity, your ability has not let you down. Just give yourself time to get past the hurdle, the barrier to completing your piece.