Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Writer's Block

Do you believe there is such a thing? It's tossed around so frequently, you might think  you could catch it like the swine flu. "Oh no, there's a serious case of writer's block going around. Make sure you use the antibacterial keyboard."

Did you know Writer's Block is an actual condition which was first described in 1947 by psychoanalist Edmund Berger (thank you Wikipedia*).

Writer's block is a condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition varies widely in intensity. It can be trivial, a temporary difficulty in dealing with the task at hand. At the other extreme, some "blocked" writers have been unable to work for years on end, and some have even abandoned their careers. It can manifest as the affected writer viewing their work as inferior or unsuitable, when in fact it could be the opposite. 
When I heard Lois Lowry and Kathryn Lasky speak a year or so ago (along with Jackie Davies and Bill Thomson at an SCBWI New England event), a question was asked about how they work through writer's block. Not one of them agreed that writer's block really existed. To paraphrase Lois, "It's an excuse."

We've all got other things going on in our lives. We've all got "more important things to think about." I could be cleaning the house right now. Making breakfast. Surfing the internet. Sure, but I'm writing a blog post.

Or I could be fleshing out characters. Writing an outline. Working on a revision.

When I get stuck on a particularly difficult scene, it's so easy to procrastinate. Sometimes I call that writer's block. I do have a million other things going on. But I've found if I have a deadline imposed by an editor, or my agent, suddenly I'm able to push through those difficulties. Amazing what a little incentive like getting paid will do.

Sometimes just giving myself permission to write crap on the page is enough to push through. Did you hear that? Sometimes, you need to give yourself permission to write crap on the page.

Self-imposed deadlines are harder for me. Cause I know that I can be bribed with a little chocolate to extend the deadline. How do you work through "writer's block."

*As a freelance nonfiction writer, I need to disclose that Wikipedia is generally not thought to be appropriate academic resource. So take the citation with a grain of salt. :)

*A variation of this post was published on my personal blog in October 2011.

1 comment:

  1. I try to find another way to connect with the story through stimulating other creative senses. Rather than just "taking a walk", a take a walk in my character's shoes. How would my MC describe this street? That house? The dog in the yard? Or I'll sketch (caveat - I'm NOT a good artist, but it stimulates the right side of my brain), color, paint, sculpt (mostly with play-doh) something from the WIP. Lastly - write crap on the page. LOL. Soooo true.