Writer's Block, the Beauty and the Beast
Littered across the internet are advice blogs on how to cure this age-old writers' dilemma, the accursed writer’s block. We even see it on the big screen, in the form of a middle-aged writer with an addiction problem and mental block. He seems to have poured his soul out to his publishers and has nothing left to give.
The Struggle is Real
I can tell you from experience, that it can be extremely frustrating to see your author friends succeed in their field as you read article after article on the writer’s block cure, but when it comes time to put pen to paper, your brain stalls and lines of gibberish hit the page. “Push through”, they say. “It’ll come to you”, they say.
I’ve tried to strategize, journal and motivate my way out of it. I’ve tried to ignore grammar and pump out ideas. But after every attempt, it all comes to a flop. Now, this is not to discourage you from checking out these techniques or from reading through articles on writer's block. They work for some, but the rest of us are left empty-handed come deadlines.
My last bout of block lasted ten years, so let me offer those of you who can relate, those of you pulling your hair out at your desk with keyboard pillow marks on your face and cold coffee in your hand, a breath of fresh air.
That’s right, take a deep breath and let go of that defensive tension in your shoulders and jaw. There is no essay or journaling-writing homework here. I got you. Now, let’s take a look at the etymology of writer’s block.
A Psychological Condition
Writer’s block is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece”. English poet, Samuel Taylor, first described this concept in the 19th century as his “indefinite indescribable terror” to not being able to produce anything worthy of his abilities.
Some psychologists believe writer’s block doesn’t exist and that writing is just an extremely challenging mental activity. Other theorists believe writers struggle due to being “wretched souls”.
As a seasoned sufferer, I believe it is indeed a psychological issue and that the act of writing is also challenging in and of itself. We torture ourselves with an idealistic perception of literature; it’s romance, it’s mystery, it’s terror, and of ourselves. We must be the brightest, the most passionate, and the most unique; otherwise, who will care enough to read what we have written? How will it be worthy of being read?
I remember getting everything ready to have the perfect atmosphere to write, I had the comfy armchair with the big woolen throw blanket on my legs, the lights dimmed a bit, it was quiet in the house with no children around, it was misty and raining outside, and I had my tea steeping on the side table beside me. Ah, perfect, isn’t it? Then, the dread started creeping in as I looked at the blank word document in front of me, the cursor blinking impatiently, the stark white page mocking me as I scrambled for words, any words, before I succumbed to the anxiety and packed up once again. My internal dialogue always repeating the same old mantra, “I don’t know why I thought this time would be different. I don’t have anything to offer. I’m not J.K. Rowling. What was I thinking?”
Stop. This needs to Stop.
Before we go any further, ask yourself why. Why attempt to take down what no eyes have yet seen and criticized? Why not give yourself the benefit of the doubt and let the critics be critics? You are the WRITER. We are so gripped by the fear of what others may think that we are self-deprecating and self-crippling.
"Let yourself be. Warts, writer’s block, and all."
Give yourself room to breathe and sit still and quiet in front of the page, with no words and no ideas, to just be. Writing is as personal as it gets (outside of marriage and childbearing-of course). It displays your worst and your best. It cuts through all the layers and walls of our heart. And how beautiful is that? To see the whole picture, crystal clear and as naked as ever.
If you came here for a step-by-step cue for the block; I'm sorry to disappoint. Writing isn’t math. It isn’t logical or quantitative. For some, journaling works; for others, the key is mapping out an overview. The point is, it's a unique experience that comes with blood, sweat, and tears.