The Myth of Writer’s Block
We’ve all experienced it, haven’t we? The day that you sit down to the computer, pop open the lid, open your half-completed novel, and stare at the cursor blinking. blinking. blinking. The words do not come; the plot feels cold; the characters seem dead on their feet.
It’s writer’s block, of course. Isn’t it?
I’m not so sure anymore. Like any other novelist, I have days when I’m discouraged, and I have moments when I look at my characters and wonder why anyone would care about them. I try to write and/or revise at least 1000 words per day, but churning out pages that bore you later can get pretty tedious after a while. So can watching that cursor torment me with its incessant, useless bouncing. But is that blockage?
Recently, I’ve come to think that writer’s block is more appropriately called lazy writer syndrome. If you call yourself a writer, you had better write. Otherwise, you’re a wanna-be writer, a has-been writer, a pretend writer, or no writer at all. And I find that if I determine I will be a writer, I can find ways to unblock myself. The best cures for me are working in the garden (hard, physical labor is best); cleaning the house (any writing has got to be more fun than that); cooking; and (not least) reading. Some writers stay away from books that are too close in genre, tone, or period to theirs, but for me reading words on the page stimulates words in the head. Working with my hands frees my mind to discover plot twists and turns and character details that my conscious mind sometimes overlooks or worries into invisibility. Exercise cleans the mind as it cleans the veins and lets the lifeblood of creativity flow.
I never allow myself to say I’m blocked anymore. I have lazy days, and I have days when the writing goes less well than other times. I revise . . . a lot. But blocked? Not if you’re a writer. Let yourself do something else for a while, but keep coming back to the computer, or the typewriter, or the pad of paper. Put in what my husband and I call “butt in chair time.” No excuses. The muse will come and she’ll bring your novel with her.