I hesitated a little because it’s not something I personally tend to suffer from greatly but then, on the other hand, I haven’t written anything much for a while so maybe I have it without realising?
For me the hold ups in writing tend to come, as now, when I’m looking for a project to begin. Writing a book tends to take me the best part of two years to do the whole thing, soup to nuts, so I like to make sure I have something worth pursuing before I make that level of investment in time and effort. That’s not to say I haven’t been writing anything – I have been doing what I often do at this stage: starting something to see how it goes, getting a little way in then realising it’s not really doing it for me and abandoning it.
I see this as all part of the process however so it doesn’t worry me unduly. I’ve never really found myself paralysed and unable to write mid-way through a book or story as some writers do.
What causes this grinding halt in the creative process? My feeling is that it might be the fear of not being perfect. The feeling that what you write might not be good enough could be enough to stop you writing anything.
In an interview I did recently with a fellow writer for her blog she asked me: “How does a writer keep from being afraid of feelings of inferiority, of being a talentless hack or stupid and just keep at it despite it all?” I think right there we see where the feelings which lead to writer’s block can come from, and if you let them grow so they become paralysing that could bring your work to a screeching halt.
So how do you mentally prepare yourself to avoid this situation?
In an interview I read once an author was asked what she does when beset by writer’s block. She replied: ‘I lower my standards and carry on.’
I can’t remember who said it – but the phrase itself stuck in my mind, precisely because that’s exactly what I do. The point is to get something, anything, down on the blank sheet of paper in front of you. What helps me greatly in this is the knowledge that what I write is a fluid, evolving process. Just because something is written down, doesn’t mean it is set in stone. I know my rewriting process means that everything can, and probably will, change – so there is no great pressure to get it right first time. The pressure I put on myself is to get it right eventually.
Another top tip I think, can be found within the advice Ray Bradbury offered in the lecture of his I blogged about earlier in the year here. His cure for writer’s block was to put down whatever you are writing and write something else instead, because you’ve picked the wrong subject. I suppose that is what I’m doing with my false starts – I’m accepting that part of what we do is to search for the right subject.
I guess what wise old Ray was telling us is that writer’s block might have a valid function in a writer’s life. It might be there to tell us we are on the wrong track and urging us to follow a different path. It’s certainly a thought isn’t it?
Tell me about your experiences of writer’s block, and your tips for dealing with it – in the comments below?
Don’t forget if you get a moment to take a look at my book Song of the Sea God.