More than two years have passed since I first intended to write this post, but like so many of my creative endeavors, it has managed to slip through the cracks of real life... you know, that pesky continous distraction that keeps us from nurturing our creative muse. But I've promised myself not to let the reality monster spoil my creative destiny.
A minimum of monthly Table posts is just a part of this package, and I figured the best way to convince myself (almost there! lol) that I'm going to slip into the dreadful dormant state of non-productivity is to return to a post idea I've been burying deep in my subconscious, beneath dozens of episodes of Family Guy and repetitive listens to my vast library of Michael Jackson music. Speaking of, have you guys... Nope, stay focused, Rob...
Anyway, writer's block. Ask any writer who's been at least trying to make headway on any creative endeavor - whether it's a song, a novel, screenplay, poem, short story... anyway, you get the idea - and he or she is destined to blame the lack of progress on that phantom menace (yes, a Star Wars reference... deal with it) known as writer's block.
Symptoms can include a general malaise of indifference when it comes to your own writing, hours spent staring blankly into an empty page and astonishment at the fact that words don't simply manifest out of thin air and perfectly articulate your artistic vision. It's almost as if the words themselves have somehow gone on strike, perhaps as retaliation for the writer's strike of 2007.
Perhaps just because they're tired of being trapped in the confines of your computer screen. Whatever the reason, writers often take extended sabbaticals between (or even during) projects, claiming that they too have fallen victim to the ire of writer's block, as if it's a writer's rendition of the common cold. I've heard this same excuse time and time again, and I have news for you, my friends, writer's block is bullshit.
As writers, we've become so accustomed to the concept of writer's block that whenever we hit even the slightest snag in our work - a character we haven't fully developed, a plot point we can't quite wrap our heads around or even something as trivial as a line of dialogue that's just not coming to us - we rush to blame it on writer's block (as opposed to the a- a- a- a- a- alcohol, that is... lol) like it's some emergency panic button that will alleviate all the stress of, you know, having to come up with a solution for the problem.
At the very least, writer's block functions as a go-to rationale for us to step away from the keyboard without feeling guilty. It gives us something to tell our friends when they ask how our writing is going, buying us a temporary reprieve so that we can instead squander our computer time on MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.. without that lingering sense of dissatisfaction that I too feel when I realize that I haven't written a word of my novel in weeks. More often than not, writer's block is a rationalization for laziness. Yeah, that's right. I said it.
Laziness. "Ooh, I don't know what to write. Let's go see who's on AIM... Yada Yada Yada." Writer's block is what we attribute this to, but in reality, we can't write either because we haven't developed the story enough, because we're distracted by our social or professional attachments or because deep-down we're honestly not passionate enough about the project to weather the storm, trudge through the dark times of writing a project and actually get it done.
Sadly, a lot of people love the idea of being a published writer, of posing as an intellectual storyteller, visions of book signings and celebrity status spinning in their heads. Like any other kind of creative realm, the world of writing is filled with a lot of posers, people who want to be included in the group but who really aren't up to the task of earning it. Writer's block is essentially a way out, a way in which they can still be considered "writers" without having to do any writing. I should know. I used to be one of them.
For years, I touted that "I'm working on my screenplay, working on my screenplay" and yet here I am in 2009, 8 or so years after I decided to write one and the damn thing still isn't done. Part of this has to do, no doubt, with my lack of time and, more importantly, my lack of focus. I wanted to be a writer without writing, and though I had a collection of ideas, I had trouble coalescing those ideas into a cohesive whole, or so I thought.
Though I never necessarily used the term "writer's block" to describe my condition, I can see now that this is precisely the phenomenon I was blaming for my inactivity. I wasn't ready at that point to work for it. I hadn't made peace with the fact that I am not a poser, not one of these young people going through a "writer phase" that I would grow out of. This is who I am.
Storytelling is in my blood, and getting my stories on paper and out into the world is not something I'm going to be able to live with. Therefore, the longer I take, wasting time with all the distractions out there (and in the age of technology, they are greater than ever before), the older I'll get and the more resentment I'll harbor against myself for not making progress on these stories that I've been contemplating for so long.
Ask yourself this question: Is writing something you're really serious about, or is it just a passing fad, something that you'll abandon with no regrets whenever the next thing catches your eye? If your answer is the latter, then you're better off moving on from this writing thing, rather than wasting fruitless years pining after something that you really have no intention of ever getting to.
If you look at it in this light, it becomes kind of hard to blame a mythical creature like "writer's block" for your lack of progress. Let's just call it what it really is. You can't seem to a) make the time or b) find the motivation to make yourself put aside everything else going on in your life and just get it done!
Nobody has ever said that creative writing is an easy task. If it were, then everyone would be a published author. But if you're passionate enough about the project, you'll simply find other aspects of it to focus on. Try writing an outline of your story (even just a cursory one that hits the big plot points) to make it a bit easier. Writing a novel may sound like a momentous task, but if you break it down into chapters and then each chapter into a focused section with a natural breaking point, it becomes a lot simpler to get the work done, little by little.
I'll make a note to devote a future Table post to managing workload, but I hope my thoughts on the myth of writer's block have proven useful or at least caused you to question your own motivation to write. I'd love to hear your thoughts, as there's nothing I enjoy more than discussing this kind of thing (obviously... lol).
Remember that if you're serious about being a writer, the only thing standing in your way is you! I have faith in you, and together, we can beat back the myth of "writer's block" and get back to what we do best. :)