Anyone who writes knows about writer’s block. Some believe in it, and some don’t. If you asked me what I believe, I’d say I don’t. But that’s not a completely honest answer...
Writer’s block is a very real thing. It’s something in a writer’s mind that is keeping her from putting words on a page. Some would argue that that’s why it’s not real, and I’ve even heard some people say “it’s all in your mind, get over it.” But I say that’s what makes it real. After all, where do our stories come from? Yeah, the mind.
Overcoming it isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely possible. Writer’s block can be as huge as a lack of confidence to produce good work, which might mean that the block is rooted deep within the person, and has nothing to do with writing. Writer’s block can also be as small as not being able to figure out what comes next in the story. No matter what it is, it’s possible to defeat it.
I’m stubborn. It runs in my family, on both sides, and my kids have inherited all of it. I think my family must have been cursed ages ago or something, because this stubbornness almost has a life of its own, and I think it will pass itself on through each generation until the world ends. Fortunately for me, I read A WRINKLE IN TIME as a kid, and Meg taught me that stubbornness can be used productively.
So, when I decided that I was going to make a living as a writer, it was as good as a done deal. The fact that it hadn’t happened yet meant nothing, because I would do whatever was necessary in order to get my work out there. : ) That may sound confident, but it’s not. Stubbornness is not confidence. And a lack of confidence can feed writer’s block.
I’ve gone through my share of writer’s block, and at one point it was as big as “everything I write is crap and no one is going to read my work.” I could have given up and pursued something else, which would have been fine. But that’s not what I wanted. I wanted to write in the worst way, and I didn’t want to write crap. Here, I feel lucky to be so stubborn, and to have learned how to harness it. Otherwise, I could have let my dream slip away. Instead, I took some writing classes. That got me one step closer to the confidence I needed in order to succeed, but I still had many steps to go. Some of those steps had nothing to do with writing, and everything to do with me.
Over the years, I’ve beaten down the writer’s block from I-can’t-write to I-don’t-know-what-happens-next. When I run into that kind of block, I lay out the story and examine what I’ve written up to that point. Then I brainstorm and lay out all possible choices (even the ridiculous ones) from there. Often, one will jump out at me, then slide itself into place. If that doesn’t happen, then I move farther back in the story until I reach the place where I got derailed. Then I brainstorm again until I’m back on track.
If none of that works, then I go for a walk. Or, I call up a friend and scream about my stupid story. : )
I still sometimes question whether what I’ve written will ever be good enough, and that sometimes results in zero words on the page. When that happens, I always take a step back and look at what’s blocking me. Is it me? Or is it the story? Once I figure that out, then I can find a way around the block. Or over it. Or under. I’m not picky. : )
So, when I say I don’t believe in writer’s block, what I really mean is that I don’t believe in letting it stop me. And I never will.