…or Why I Don’t Write
If there is anything more distressing to a writer, it’s the occasional so-called ‘writers block.’ After all, we as artists are hard-wired to create. Some of us create using physical materials; some of us create using the world inside our heads. When something gums up the works, when we are unable to produce, we feel anxious and upset. We beat up on ourselves. I call myself lazy, a procrastinator, a wannabe, a failed writer. All these terms are nice (or not) but they do not address any of the real issues.
Believe me, I know of what I speak. I’ve been suffering from the second longest dry spell in history (the first being the first 18 years of my children’s lives). I’ve been introspectively pondering the problem for the last year or so. If you are also suffering from writers block, I urge you to spend a few moments examining the root causes and devise a strategy for change.
Real Life as a Cause: About a year and a half ago, one of my family members became embroiled in some major personal drama. It was also very serious, legally, psychically, emotionally. It also caused him to become very ill. In fact, he’s still very ill.
Of course, I love this person. I would move mountains to help. Unfortunately for me, I allowed myself to get wrapped up in this situation. I tried to devise solutions to problems that weren’t mine, and that was frustrating. This led to severe depression for me. When I am depressed, I can’t think of doing anything remotely pleasant. If I do write at all, I tend to pen very dark and depressing stories.
I’m currently battling a way out of my funk. I’m lucky in that I recognize what is going on and reach out to those who can help me. Medication helps.
Self-Doubt as a Cause: Last year, I had just finished what I thought was my final version of Virtually Yours Forever. Then I sent it to my editor. Then he called me and told me I should devise a parallel story to the current one to add interest.
I went along, but I couldn’t see this happening with my characters. Yes, I was half-hearted about the whole idea. It was a good idea, yes, but it wasn’t right for me, for this particular story. I spent a year on the re-write, fighting myself every day I opened the file. Meanwhile, I was berating myself for not getting it. What was wrong with me? This was a GREAT idea!
This entire episode bogged down my creative process.
I decided to take out the parallel story line and am in the process of the FINAL edit.
Laziness as a Cause: I know. I call myself *lazy* but am I really? I own several businesses. I run nearly every day. I make dinner five out of seven nights a week – yes! with my very own hands with fresh ingredients. I garden. I clean my own house (yes, even the bathrooms) and do my own laundry. I take jewelry classes. I read (when I can).
I can’t remember the last time I took a nap. If I have a spare minute of time, I can find something to do. (I am sooooo looking forward to retirement, when I can devote all of my time to pleasurable activities.)
I have determined that my form of *laziness* has only to do with getting my butt into a chair and actually typing something on that blank page.
Things you can do to unblock…
Improve your craft: Any artist can benefit from constant learning. You were not born a perfect writer, and any skill takes constant practice.
Take a class online (I do). Sign up for NaNoWriMo (I did). Find a Facebook group that throws out an occasional writing prompt (look up Meg Pokrass – she’s witty and I love her prompts). Sign up for a class In Real Life. Join a writers group, either a general one or in your genre. Invest in reference books. If you can’t afford to buy, there is that antique thing called a library. Every city has one. They will let you borrow books! 🙂 Find a mentor. Reach out to authors you like online; you’d be surprised, some of them will answer you back.
The bottom line: Make a commitment, even if it’s for ten minutes a day.
Read other people: Finding time to read is tough – especially in my life – but for your own sanity, make the time. Even if it’s just a chapter. Even if it’s just a page.
I get the most inspiration from reading, especially if it’s a genre I enjoy.
Again, it’s the commitment, even if it’s for just ten minutes.
Change your modus operandi: If your blockage is major like mine was (yes! was!), you might want to change up your approach. After all, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity – and it won’t move you toward your goal of words flowing.
Change your scenery. My creative juices always get rolling if I’m far from home and the worries of day to day life. It never fails. A mini-vacation will do wonders.
I find that doing things helps. While in Colorado recently, I felt compelled to write a short story about running, after spending ten days running with my dad’s dachshund. It was such an intriguing story line, I’m thinking of expanding the story into novel length. I’m also inclined to think about writing when I’m gardening – it’s something about getting your hands into dirt that starts me thinking. Or when spring cleaning – which I’ve just put off until recently, so I guess it’s fall cleaning now – I pull out bits and pieces of my life from nooks and crannies and think about the history in my hands. (Plus the house gets decluttered and dusted. Win-win.)
It also helps to change up where you write. I used to only write in the comfy purple chair in my bedroom. Now I sit at a table where the activity is more a job than a whimsical past-time. I turn off EVERYTHING, even the phone, and I write like hell for an hour before I get up.
No matter what, patience: Blockage is temporary, yes, even if temporary = twenty years. You can and will get back on that bicycle and ride off! Trust me! Don’t compare yourself to other writers; you’re not running a race against them. You own your own creative process, and how you get to your goals will definitely not match up to other writers.
Trust me. A writer can work his/her way out of writers block. It just takes time and constant tending.