I’d like to say first and foremost that I don’t like the term writer’s block, but there isn’t really a suitable term that I can think of to describe what I’ve been experiencing, and so, here we are.
It goes without saying, but for the past few months I’ve experienced quite significant writer’s block. This follows the years of writer’s block that preceded my renewed interest in the craft this year. There are a number of reason’s I can identify for why I have writer’s block, which I’ll get into, but first I want to discuss other things.
I’m not the first person to say this and I know I won’t be the last, but I don’t necessarily believe in writer’s block being a thing – at least not for me. I know I’ve used the phrase, but I wish there was a different, more accurate term for what I’m experiencing with my writing.
Rather, more accurately, it is probably mental exhaustion that I am thinking of. Being in a mentally demanding job and trying to engage in mentally demanding hobbies such as writing is, to be frank, quite draining. In many ways, I mourn the fact that I didn’t take more advantage of my university days of relatively low commitment and demand. Of course, this is all a part of the game – we are always able to look back and see that things were easier at one time or another.
Or maybe, even more accurately, I experience a block when I fear something. As a person I typically experience fight or freeze, and more often it is freeze that I react with.
This year I decided to take part in Nanowrimo; I had ideas for a novel, none of which were particularly exciting to me, and I basically just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it – that I could write 1667 words a day (at a minimum) and get to the end of the month with 50,000 words. I didn’t even tell myself it needed to be a finished project. I just told myself I had to write that 50,000 words this month to get into the habit of writing again. This is a part of those 50,000 words for me, because there is a big part of me that knows that this is something I just have to do, to prove to myself that I can.
Every year up to this point I’ve told myself that I’ll wait for the next year to do Nanowrimo, and this was the first year that I really told myself that it was now or never. I knew if I didn’t do it this year, I might never do it.
For the most part, this has worked for me – I’m writing every day, I take opportunities to write where they present themselves, and I am engaging myself in the activity again. But today I started feeling very familiar things – the things that lead to my personal “writer’s block”.
As mentioned before, I would probably identify the following as being my core “triggers” for feeling taxed by writing:
- The feeling that my story is aimless and that I don’t know where it is going
- The feeling that I don’t have enough to make it into a novel
- The feeling that my story is boring or uninteresting
- The feeling that the quality of my writing is drivel
and number 5, which is probably the one that I find most arresting: the feeling that I am wasting my time. This evening I read the article “Writing Efficiently” by Tara East, and I identified with what she said about the feeling that we must write efficiently – that we must end up with something that is marketable. But equally, there was something she wrote that really struck me: East asserts that, although it might be upsetting to hear, writing is a waste of time.
I don’t think I’ve read something that’s freed me quite as much as that, aside from when I once read that rice is healthy for you and assumed that “rice” in that article was synonymous for sushi.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few months frozen by the fear that if I pursue an idea, it will be the wrong one, and it won’t be good enough, and that I will end up with bad writing. I am scared to spend time on my writing, because I am scared to get it wrong. I suppose to that as we get older, it’s hard to do something without an express purpose – to do something for enjoyment and not for a career.
As someone who is trying to have a less fixed mindset, this is difficult to identify within myself. Just as much as I do not like misleading myself or risking failure, I don’t like the idea that I’m not open to the possibility of not succeeding immediately. I don’t like the idea of being someone who always has to win (although it is still nice to be a winner).
And so, having gotten to today and deciding to throw in the towel on Nanowrimo at about 1.30pm, I have instead decided (at 7.51pm) to persist, and to provide myself with the opportunity to fail, and to just write because I like writing. I spend so much time caught up in the idea that I have to make something of my writing that I forget what I find enjoyable about writing.
Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts and thanks for bearing with me during my erratic posting habits.