I’m going to caveat this post by saying I doubt very much that many will agree with me, at least initially. In fact, I’m expecting some of you, including my lovely writer-ly friends, to *up-in-arms* against me; because, hell, I’m just going to say it – I THINK THE ENTIRE CONCEPT OF WRITERS BLOCK IS COMPLETE AND UTTER CRAP.
There! I said it. Now, before you ’all jump straight to “comments” hear me out. Firstly, let’s set the guidelines and boundaries of what Writers Block is supposed to be. Below is a definition from Wikipeadia, the highlighted bits are my addition:
Writer’s block is a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition ranges in difficulty from coming up with original ideas to being unable to produce a work for years. Throughout history, writer’s block has been a documented problem. Professionals who have struggled with the affliction include author F. Scott Fitzgerald and pop culture cartoonist Charles M. Schulz.
The research concentrating on this topic abounded in the late 1970s and 1980s. During this time, researchers were influenced by the Process and Post-Process movements, and therefore focused specifically on the writer’s processes. The condition was first described in 1947 by psychoanalyst Edmund Bergler.
So, if I have this straight, Writers Block is the inability to produce new work, with no time period limit? So… was Harper Lee suffering from Writers Block after writing To Kill a Mockingbird? I mean, that was it for Harper… nothing else (that we know of) ever written and certainly nothing else published. Or did Harper Lee think, “Yep… happy with that one, what’s next on my bucket list.” - ?
And here is my other issue… what constitutes NEW WORK? Is it an entirely new project, a brand new WIP, is it new scenes for a chapter or a totally new chapter from thin air, or is it new words that make a scene, chapter, manuscript sharp and quick… or is it JUST any old words slapped together to make NEW WORK?
The premise is flawed, and the description about as vague as the Gabor Sisters dates of birth (Magda, Zsa Zsa, and Eva – and no, I’m not one hundred years old, I just like 1940s, 50 & 60s movies).
Of course there are going to be days when inspiration hits you like a cannonball and other days when you really don’t want to get out of bed… it’s called REAL LIFE, but for some reason, artists, and writer’s in particular, demand of our brains to “please explain” – still not convinced? Let’s look at other professions.
Have you ever seen or attended a meeting or court session? I’m sure you are nodding yes. And when this has happened, if the matter was of a more serious nature, how often is there only ONE legal representative? Not very often. We accept this because “legal council prefers to consult before giving a reply” – also known as; “I’m just not with it today, what’s your take on the evidence?”
Operating Theatre is the perfect example of how one doctor hands over to another, either because of expertise or because they just got the shakes, or they can’t get the God-Damn massive phone bill on their kids mobile off their minds… and their inability to concentrate might just kill the patient.
Depending on the arena and the level of professional play, there can be several coaches and assistant coaches… each and every one doing their bit to
cover, ehh sorry, assist each other and the players.
OK, perhaps it’s not QUITE the same thing, but I assure you, in every job I’ve had, there have been days when I couldn’t grasp a concept or find an answer, and have struggled to put words and ideas together, even in say an internal memo or email. Yet, it’s not called WRITERS BLOCK if you’re an accountant thinking of the best way to tell your client they have a massive tax bill… and adding… “oh and by they way, here’s my invoice,” it’s called bad news or a shitty day –
But for writers it’s WRITERS BLOCK. I truly believe the ‘title’ Writers Block was created by an unknown psychologist in order to write a paper and get a mention.
Yes sometimes I struggle with an idea or a scene or an answer to a weak scene, yet I consider this part of my JOB as a writer.
Sometimes I don’t write anything new for days, even months.
Sometimes I don’t paint a new painting for days, or months.
Neither of these are a BLOCK – they are a lack of inspiration; that’s IT – nothing more, it’s not a block it’s your brain telling you to “give me a break FFS, I’m just a brain not a micro-chip.”
Interestingly enough, if you Google, “ways to overcome writers block” you’ll get a plethora of sites all with pretty much the same advice… take a break from what you’re doing and do something different; in order to refresh your thoughts and inspire you. Sorry but isn’t that just fatigue mixed with a little frustration and boredom?
When I’m not inspired, I don’t sit about complaining and whining about being “blocked” I DO SOMETHING. And guess what, I do EXACTLY what these 1001 sites suggest. It can be as simple as getting out of the house, or the city. Or it can be doing some volunteer work, or cleaning the house top-to-toe. Or it can be reading, studying other artists, making notes, doing revision, socialising IRL and on social media… it can be going for a run, joining a gym or even paying bills (seriously), anything that gets my mind off my current annoying little pest and has me thinking, doing, acting in a different way.
There is one episode where the character of Sheldon cannot work out the answer to one of his physics theories. No matter how much he tries, the answer evades him. And, given his self-assuredness of his utter brilliance, this frustrates him no end. He decides he needs to let his MIND REST in order to progress and takes it on himself to work as a waiter/plate collector because “there is no more menial job” he can think of to allow his brain to rest and think better. And evidently it works.
Even this WAS NOT Writers or Artists or Inventors Block – it was fatigue and stress disallowing Sheldon’s brain to conceptualise an answer to his question. Resting the brain and taking on an entirely foreign task helped clear his mind and refresh his thoughts.
Parents live by “Time-Out” rules for their children and most employers encourage their employees to “take a break” even if it’s just to get a glass of water. Classes are specifically set to be under 60 minutes because the human brain requires a break after 45-50 minutes… it’s Time Out.
If we must give the “time-out” for writers a label, must it be a BLOCK? It has such negative connotations. Inspiration is fleeting as much as it is compelling and for the better part of the day, week, year; we are doing mundane *housework* such as revisions, and editing and helping others do the same. If we were studying, we’d call it “a break” if we were doing a work-out we do “warm-ups” and “cool-downs” yet when our author brain tells us it needs a rest we make it a negative thing, referring to it as a BLOCK rather than a little nana-nap that, frankly we all should indulge in occasionally.
Writers Break – sure, in fact from here on in I will be calling this period WRITERS BREAK – hands up if you’re with me? I’ll be the first to put my hand up for that one, but, in my humble opinion, there no such thing as WRITERS BLOCK, unless you really DO need an excuse for not finishing that manuscript you’ve been half-heartedly working on for the past 5-years. In which case being BLOCKED much better suits than taking a BREAK… you’ll never have to finish what you started :)
And before I go, I’d like to thank all of you for your support.
This little blog was started by me in Jan -2014 and it’s just rolled over the 13,000 hits — not bad for 9 months! – I hope you ‘all continue to get something from my posts and as always, feel free to comment :)