Writer’s block. No one talks about how painful it is and how disconnected it makes you feel from everything around you. You don’t, or can’t I suppose, realise just how disconcerting it is until it grabs you by the collar and shakes you around. Well actually, it doesn’t so much grab you, as it numbs you from your toes to your hair follicles, as if you’ve been infected by some kind of anti-writing venom. You can’t compose, you can’t think, you can’t function. You walk around in a daze wondering what you did to anger the muse.
Surprisingly, a lot of people don’t believe in writer’s block. But then a lot of people think Columbus set out to prove the world was round, or that ‘Here be Dragons’ was inscribed on ancient maps. In actuality it was only one map, The Lenox Globe (1503-1507). Although it was common practice to draw dragons and other besties on uncharted land masses, no one knows how the dragon quote became popular. But one is all it takes to create myth. One person to refute (or to believe) something with enough conviction so that it enters the public consciousness as truth.
The best argument I’ve read about the non-existence of WB is from a writer who believes that when the conscious brain is aware of the subconscious, it stops working. And trying to write consciously is like the reverse of sleep walking: you are acutely aware of every sound, every action. Like that film ‘Awake’, where the guy who plays Anakin Skywalker fails to get properly anesthetized during surgery. Silent screaming would have been a better title. Silent screaming would have also been a fair assessment of the audience’s reaction at the cinema.
With regard to the WB refutation, I agree that it may be a temporary but necessary psychological ruse created by the crafty subconscious to make time for the creative process. Maybe what the nay-sayers mean is that WB doesn’t exist, as it isn’t ours to control in the first place. But surely in saying that, they’ve made a case for it rather than against it? What I don’t have time for are those silly little websites that insist that WB is just an excuse made up by lazy, procrastinating, run out of ideas, poor prose penning writers. Or those blogs that advise you to close your eyes and repeat the phrase: writer’s block does not exist, writer’s block does not exist.
I wonder if they cure a broken leg the same way? I just shows how little we understand about the role of the conscious and subconscious. In many ways the creative process is terra incognita – the area where our knowledge ends and uncertainty begins. We may as well start drawing dragons on the borders of unfinished work. Instead, we blame ourselves if we get stuck and wonder why we can’t overcome our failures. We deny WB even exists, while hoping desperately that we never catch it. Superstition is not a new thing for writers.I’m lucky not to be going through WB at the moment.
I’ve had it twice. Both times it lasted months. No matter what I did, I couldn’t shake off the ennui. Out of interest, I’ve done a little research on how writers try to combat the dreaded block. I’ve noted the more plausible suggestions. Please feel free to ignore them or share your thoughts.PS: I’m also interested if you don’t believe in WB. I promise not to bite your head off but I may secretly hate you.
Tips for banishing writer’s block:
1. forget writing and do something else.
2. forget writing. Get a notebook, observe people, trees and other things, make it your observations notebook
3. start a new writing project, leave the other one in the drawer
4. make a list of all the reasons you want to be a writer and go through them every day until you motivate yourself/or go crazy
5. read a book called ‘The Artists’ Way’ that treats WB like a 12-step program. I’ve not read the book but i’m interested to know if anyone has.
6. angst, depression and fear are suspected contenders in WB, give yourself time to do what you normally do in those situations, heal, take long walks, give yourself some needed rest
7. research the lives of other writers, did they suffer from WB? how did they start writing again, or talk to writer friends, join a support network, talk about fears/issues
8. paint, take up drawing or doodling, think of things pictorially instead of verbally, be as abstract as you want to be, or be literal
9. change your desk around, change your notebooks, buy a new pen, move your chair, your bookcase, your furniture
10. try something physical like running or yoga. during sessions don’t think about writing. focus on breathing and your body, disconnect from the thought process.