Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Writer's Block

Writer's block as always been one of those things that I struggle from.  When I was in high-school I never seemed to have a problem with the dreaded writer's block.  Somehow I always had someone to talk to or I always managed to find something to read or do that would lift it pretty quickly.  Since then I've taken lots of writing courses and been in a few different writer's groups and I've found writer's block an increasingly difficult problem.  So what changed?

I've been really thinking about the things that cause my writer's block and I've come to a conclusion.  I have no idea if this is going to be universal or if it's going to be just me so if anyone feels the same way, do please let me know.  When I was writing in high-school (and younger) everyone around me gave me praise, made me feel good about what I was writing and the way I was writing it.  They seemed to think I could be a writer and that my writing was worth reading.

Enter university.

Now, don't get me wrong I loved school in high-school and university was no different.  There were classes I hated and classes I loved and some that just didn't interest me but overall I love learning and I loved the experience.  Except for one thing.  Suddenly, my writing didn't seem so wonderful anymore.  No one understood it, or if they understood it they simply did not like what I had written.  I could not have enough description one day and then had too much the next.  I began to suffer from writer's block so badly that I had to force myself to break through it with no help from anyone else just to get a poorly written short story on the page so I could hand it in for the next day.  What happened?

I know that when we're younger people give us praise much more frequently.  It seems that when we get to be adults we don't get that anymore, we should be able to hear the hard truths and deal with it.  The "hard truths" were often viciously laid out and a great deal more deconstructive than constructive.  I remember having writer's block so badly and begging my teacher one semester to help me find a way around it.  The only solution I was given was to "just go write it."  Now obviously (now anyway) that was good advice in its own way, but I felt like I was drowning and couldn't bring myself to write a word because I was terrified that people wouldn't like it.  One of the worst criticisms I've ever had was a flat out statement that was agreed to by all that a character was "disgusting and unlikeable".  I don't know about you but when I like a character hearing something like that (from the entire group no less) is devastating unless that's what you wanted for that character.

Now let me explain what I think my teacher meant.  "Just write".  I think that teacher meant that I should go home and start writing everything and anything that came to mind.  I don't think it was meant to be "just go write the story and stop complaining" which is how I took it as it came with no further explanation, it was supposed to be "just go home and write something."  I've only really understood that in the last few days as I've been working on chapter 7 and now chapter 8.  However I also recognize that fear and discouragement are powerful things that can contribute to that block.  It's built from the ground up with fear of what other people will think about it, fear of it not being good enough and anything else you can think of that involves others judging my work.

Yes, eventually my work will be judged by others.  Once it's done and someone else reads it the judging will begin in one way or another and there's nothing I can do to change that.  But I am not writing for others and I have to remember that.  Yes, audience is something to take into account, so is the publisher or agent I want to read my book and then support it.  But at this stage, at this point in the writing there is only one person that I need to write for and that's myself.  I'm a reader too, I contribute to the hundreds of books that are published every week simply by being a contributor to the purchase of them.  I know what a good story is, I've long had a sense for timing and figuring out the future of a story before it happens.  The book that I'm writing is in that way no different.  I write the book I want to read and I can trust that those other books that I read have other people reading them too who will one day pick up my book and read it too.  It's for the people like me that I write because I write it for me.

So.  Go away writer's block.  Go away fear.  I've no use for you at all.


  1. I've heard a lot of stories from university, about how fellow classmates are cruel, judge and critique harshly, have no good critique to grow and build from, and a lot of the time shred people's work because they are jelous and they do what they can to tear the person and their work down. Also, it's a vulnerability, the doubt, the attacks.. Writing this book seems to be something GOD wants to happen, so of course there will be obvious (and subtle) attacks to prevent this. Writing block may be one, fear, doubt, and the negative critiques of others are some more. Pray, and be strong. I know you can do it. Be creative, be you. It will come.

  2. It's coming along. I'm definitely getting closer and closer to that tipping point I think. And generally i like what I've been writing up to this point so that's a little new too. Thank you for the encouragement!

  3. It gets easier, I find, the more you've written. That said, sometimes the last few pieces can take a long time to hash out.

    Keep it up!