Current Release

Current Release
The Warrior's Viking Bride

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

On writer's block part 1

DG in the comments sections of my latest section commented that he had been thinking about writer's block and my word about lumpy day old porridge struck a chord.

Now I am not sure I have ever written about writer's block, but I do know about it. Writing lumpy day old porridge that slowly congeals on the plate is NOT writer's block. You can work with lumpy day old porridge. You can play with it. You can make it better. Or you can see ideas that did not work and can make it better. In other words, it is a bad page, not a blank page. Bad pages can be fixed. Blank pages are just blank.

True writer's block is something different. It is when you become a dry husk, totally squeezed out of ideas. And you become afraid to put the next word down. Or you become physically incapable of putting the next word down.
This is often in response to some severe stress. Your mind is so busy coping with something or several somethings that the creativity and energy needed to sustain it disappears and all ideas flee.
For example when my father died and then I had my first child, all my desire to write ended. Vanished. The world became a shadowy grey place for awhile and I had to go through the grieving process as well as adjusting to being a new mother. Then a few weeks later, my brother became seriously ill and eventually died. And I can remember thinking what is the point of wanting to write romance. I should want to write something deep and meaningful, but nothing deep and meaningful would come. During this period, I also gave up reading romance and mostly confined my reading to factual texts like how to look after children or gardening.
I thought whatever spark I had had gone forever and became afraid to try, so I put fiction writing to one side for about 12 years. Oh my daemon after awhile would try to tempt me and I would get flashes of stories, tantalizing glimpses of the sunny uplands but I resisted, remembering what it felt like to be a dry husk. During that period, I would write the odd article for newsletters or keep an occasional journal but I did not feel capable of writing for publication.
It was not until I was hospitalised in 2002 that I thought right -- I am going to try to pursue my dream and became serious about writing again. It also helped that a lady in the bed near me said -- you know in times of trouble, you can't go wrong with Mills and Boon and Penny Jordan. And I thought - oh I was wrong. Escapist literature is fine. In fact, it can be very necessary.
Then in 2003 after I joined the RNA, I read an article in their magazine. I think it was a report on a workshop. Anyway, in that article they did say that grief and other severe stress could trigger writer's block and a load rolled off my back. There was a distinct trigger. While I dealt with my grief and everything else in my life, I had true writer's block. But true writer's block does not last long. It is the fear that it leaves behind that lasts.

There is a saying that writers who need money never suffer prolonged blocks. This is because the need to survive is often greater than the fear of failure.
Writer's block is in many ways a luxury because you are giving into fear. People who can not afford to don't tend to have it.

And tomorrow, I am going to write about some of the fears that can impede writing. being impeded in writing is different from being blocked -- but it is not less real. Then I am planning on offering some strategies for overcoming the fears and hopefully becoming more productive.

In the meantime, I need to finish my wip.


India said...

Michelle, what an interesting an moving post. Having experienced such difficulties with my current book I've been thinking a lot about the whole process of writing, so this couldn't have been more timely for me. As always, your honesty and insight is hugely appreciated.

Hope the wip is going well now. xxx

Ray-Anne said...

Thank you for sharing that insight with us, Michelle. The lady in the hospital bed resonates with me.
Very well said, and thought provoking as always.

Donna Alward said...

It is in times of greatest adversity that I write MORE, rather than becoming blocked. I think it is my way of leaving the stress behind and giving me something else to focus on. In fact, as you know it was post partum depression that started me writing again in the first place!

But the other blocks - boy, do I know. Fear of not getting it right is a big one of mine.

CherylStJohn said...

Great insight, Michelle. I have found myself writing more during times of grieving, yet writing less during times of career challenges. We are interesting and diverse creatures, aren't we?

Michelle Styles said...

Yes Cheryl, I agree that authors are wonderfully diverse creatures. It is so interesting to see how different stresses effect each of us differently.
What I was trying to do here was to point out the difference between the very real writer's block (which is a form of depression -- hypographia) and general impediments.
There is another form of depression called hyper graphia which means writing too much and I will go into that later.

Phillipa said...

Michelle. Thank you so much for sharing this brilliant insight into writing and The Crows. I've had what I thought might be 'block' for a couple of months but I now know is 'only' Fear and can be overcome. I've ticked off about five on your list above.

Keep writing. P x

PS I am always best by guit and thinkign I should be writing somethign deep and meaningful. i think that's why I never started when I was younger.Fear of not writing something like that - now I know it's Ok to entertain people and make them feel happy.

DG said...

I know what you are talking about Michele, because I think I am experiencing something like it right now, only refusing to accept it.

If you see my archived posts, you will find I call it my "crisis of faith". I am trying to laugh about it, but you are right, it is hard, very hard.

And also I am a she, not a he:)