Is Writer’s Block A Real Thing

 

by Allison Maruska

 

I saw an interesting quote on Facebook this morning.

“Some days you don’t feel like doing your job. But there is no ‘teacher’s block’ or ‘dentist’s block.’ I can’t figure out why we have created this mysterious phrase..only for writers..which only means ‘don’t feel like doing this right now.” Lois Lowry

I’ve been chewing on it all day and decided maybe “The Block” is reserved for creative pursuits – creating something from nothing can go off the rails sometimes. Are Painter’s Block and Quilter’s Block a thing?

Allow me to offer my answer with a little story.

I was “blocked” for more than a year with my upcoming novel, The Seventh Seed. Or at least I thought I was…

What really happened was I wrote about a third of it and put chapters in my critique group as I went. One chapter needed significant rewrites, which happens. It doesn’t usually happen while still writing new material, however. I couldn’t decide if I should fix the broken chapter or keep on keeping on with the new stuff.

So I did neither. Instead, I stopped writing Seed and focused on Drake and the Fliers, a book I was closer to finishing.

Then, I got the rights back for the Project Renovatio trilogy and spent the next year getting those books published.

And Seed patiently waited on the back burner for me, even as I told it I wasn’t going to finish it.

I felt better when I removed the “I should finish that” pressure from my brain. At least for a little while. My writing partners seemed kinda bummed when I told them.

I believed I was blocked with it. I’d stopped with a broken chapter after somewhere around 30,000 words. I had to fix that before moving on. The fact that it was out there, unfinished, nagged at me, especially when the other books were out and my plate was clean.

Brain: Now what?

Me: Well, I have these other ideas for new stories–

Brain: You never finished Seed, you know.

Me: …

Me: …

Me: Do I have to??

Brain: Not right now but you will eventually.

My brain knows me too well.

I couldn’t leave 30,000 words out in the literary abyss doing nothing. My characters were left hanging. And I remembered a couple of choice quotes I’d read over the years.

I wanted my book to be a book, not a brick in the road to unfinished manuscript hell. So, I opened the file, blew the dust off, and vowed to finish my shit.

I’m not gonna lie: it was hard to get rolling again. I started by reading through the old chapters, cleaning them up a little. Then I fixed the broken chapter. Then came the new stuff. I managed to get the remaining 50,000 words down in about three months (give or take a few weeks). But it was finished.

So what’s the take away here?

I was blocked, but I also had four convenient excuses (other books) for staying that way. Once The Seventh Seed was the only thing looking at me, I could break through the block. Until then, the motivation to get unblocked just wasn’t there.

For me, writer’s block was a matter of “not wanting to do it right now.” But that’s just me.

 

 

 

Guest post contributed by Allison Maruska. Allison likes to post in line with her humor blog roots, but she also includes posts about teaching and writing specifically. Check out her website for more of her work.

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14 thoughts on “Is Writer’s Block A Real Thing”

  1. I don’t think what you’re talking about IS writer’s block. True writer’s block happened for me after my husband died. It didn’t matter what I did, I couldn’t write a thing. I was blocked with regard to all words.

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  2. I thought my block was due to not wanting to leave my characters or not wanting to end the story. I self published my first book and they printed it in a 9-font. Naturally, it did not sell. First books already have several disadvantages but such tiny print should not have been one of them. I could not write for 2 years! Oh, I dabbled, did my blog, but had no interest in doing any serious writing. At my age I shouldn’t go 2 weeks without writing, let alone 2 years!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is such a good take on an old idea. I’ve been through the whole “writers block” situation and have always believed that it was just me not wanting to confront the fact that maybe the story needed revising.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. For me the block has always been based in fear, self doubt, and uncertainty. Sometimes I doubt my own abilities and fear finishing my story (I ask myself `what if no one likes it` or `what if I can’t get it published`.) because of uncertainty about what will happen next. Sometimes having multiple projects helps me unblock- but I never thought about the multiple projects as being a hindrance to finishing.

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  5. Allison, what you describe doesn’t fit my definition of “blocked.” You had other things to write. By my reckoning, if you’re writing, you aren’t blocked. My method for dealing with blocks is to go write something else.
    That rule works fine as long as you get to decide what you’re writing. If you’d committed to a deadline for Seventh Seed and you weren’t writing, I’d call that blocked. Writing on deadline is demanding, and I can report from (just one) experience, not being sure how to structure the entire center section while the deadline looms ever-closer is pretty terrifying.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I had the mother of all Writer’s block. It went on for years. Before it happened I had been extremely productive. The stories came and I wrote nonstop. And then one day everything came to a screeching halt. It was like running out of gas while cruising down the highway. No matter what I did I couldn’t get started again. I felt brain dead. All the characters had moved out and left no forwarding addresses. It was a horrible feeling.
    And then two years ago the tenets were back and they brought their friends with them. You can’t imagine how excited I was to feel the need, the drive, the desire to write again. And my old stamina was back including a head filled with new ideas.
    Writer’s block is real. It can be debilitating. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But should it happen just keep the faith and repeat after me, ”I am a writer,” then believe in yourself. You’ll make it. If I did so can you.

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  7. I experienced a similar thing. I brought back an old novel that I poorly wrote the first time. It bugged me. I knew I could better.

    The plot had to change. A few of the characters had to be reworked and than of course there was the dreaded middle section.

    Slowly it worked itself out. It was as though the characters had enough of me and figured it out on their own. Our creative minds are a bit different than others, aren’t they.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s a good question to ponder and great post. I agree with both thoughts; writer’s block is a cop out and it’s so real it can immobilize your brain. I have a conscious and unconscious way of avoiding the drudgery and joy of writing or creating something new out of nothing. I also agree that writer’s block is a tangible thing. Maybe conjured out of fear, loss, grief, avoidance, and lack of self esteem in that moment. In any case, the writer’s brain never relents. The cosmic muse whispers “write…paint…create.” So in a way, you can never get away from it. I just realized this might not be my most uplifting response.

    Like

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