Saturday, October 22, 2011

Writers 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 few weeks ago (along with Jackie Davies and Bill Thomson at an NESCBWI 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.

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. :)


Ansha Kotyk said...

I agree that writer's block is an excuse but I also think it's something you need to learn how to overcome. And to be a professional writer it behooves you to learn your own brain and how it works. If some type of stress causes us to stifle our creativity, we must learn how to manage stress... yoga anyone?

Tina Laurel Lee said...

Brains are so tricky. Procrastination of the difficult scenes/feelings of inadequacy turn quickly to other feelings - for me boredom, sleepiness, and often the inability to make decisions. That's when I find myself stuck. So yes, I like Ansha's response, yoga helps. :)

Heather Kelly said...

Lois Lowry was at an NESCBWI???? WHERE WAS I????

Oh, and yeah, I think it is an excuse too. I'll think that until I get it. I imagine it is a fear based response--and I've heard after publishing the first novel, that it gets incredibly hard to write or revise the second one.

Laura Pauling said...

I think some of it might be a myth. But I'm sure it feels real to the person experiencing. Maybe they just need to figure out the reason behind it - wrong story idea...etc.