Personally, I don’t believe in writer’s block. Now, I understand that I’m about to launch into a rather nuanced argument, but I believe that writer’s block is just a romanticised version of resistance (minus the roses and awkward foreplay).
Really, writing is the same as exercise.
It’s 6am. The alarm goes off, accompanied by the wafting smell of sweaty sneakers and lycra gym pants. The smell reminds you of last night’s resolve: ‘I will go for a run in the morning!’
I don’t know about you, but for me the idea of hitting the pavement is infinitely more painful than the reality of it. If you can convince yourself to slip from the covers and into your training gear, more times than not, you’ll find yourself enjoying the experience. (The sense of accomplishment after completing said task is just another bonus!)
That’s what writing is like.
The idea of sitting down and facing the blank page is infinitely more painful than the reality is.
Sitting in the chair is hard.
The five-minute dance of two words forward, one word back; re-reading yesterday’s pages and deciding it’s all rubbish; changing the font because you can no longer stand Calibri or Times New Roman; wondering how plausible life on Mars really is or if you could build a satisfying career in nursing/forklift driving/DJ’ing/monkey training….
Those first five minute are the hardest, the point of greatest resistance, because you haven’t had the chance to sink into the day’s work. Slipping on a parachute and hitting the eject button suddenly becomes a tantalising option; a half hour spent taking in a crisp vista is a lot more appealing than gliding a jet.
DO NOT HIT THAT BUTTON!
All you can do is white knuckle your way through the resistance.
‘But I’m just not in the mood to write.’
*Stares at you blankly*
Okay… let me put it this way: if you made an appointment to have your wisdom teeth removed and the surgeon came in and said, ‘Sorry, it’s just not going to happen today. I’m not….in the mood…’ Well, mista, that boat ain’t gonna float.
If you only put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard when The Muse appears, that three-hundred-page thriller you’ve been fiddling with may take a decade to complete (if ever). Now, I totally get that sometimes you may be distracted by the administrations or inconveniences of life, a bill arrives that you can’t pay, the dog escapes for the fifth time (that day), a parent/friend/family member becomes ill and needs your care…
Life happens. Shit gets messy.
What I’m talking about is the times when there is no legitimate issue on your mind. I’m talking about the resistance that is really just a grown up version of ‘but I don’t wanna!’ *stamps feet and pouts*
So, if you are in this state of resistance, how do you move through it?
Hmmmmm, maybe you should just stop trying so hard. Stop trying to be literary, clever, ironic, witty etc. Alleviate that pressure, man. Instead, imagine writing how you talk. No-one ever wakes up in the morning with ‘talker’s block.’ If you write how you talk, the prose will flow easier. Write now; edit later.
One of the best lessons I’ve ever learnt was the discipline of daily deadlines. When I used to work at a rural newspaper, I had to submit four completed articles by 3pm EVERYDAY. When you have to write something, believe me, you will find something to write about! My favourite piece from those days was a soft new article about a retired man who grew a pineapple tree in a discarded washing machine. Hardly literary. Definitely not Pulitzer material. But I had a deadline to meet and I met it.
1) Don’t take it so seriously
2) Write how you talk
3) Meet daily deadlines
And if all else fails, you can still have a successful career in monkey training.
Image by Denis Weiser Pineapple