Thoughts On Writer’s Block

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t believe in writer’s block, but upon thinking about it more carefully, I realize this isn’t actually true. OF COURSE writers have trouble writing sometimes. I do, but even if I didn’t, who am I to say that my experience is the definitive one? Plenty of people experience things that I do not. Like snow. I have not experienced snow personally, but I know others who have. When I said I didn’t believe in writer’s block, I unintentionally devalued the experiences of other writers, and I’m sorry for that.

What I object to is not the fact that writers get blocked, but the term Writer’s Block itself. I don’t like it, because I think it makes us lazy. It makes the normal bumps on the writing road seem like some mystical affliction. It  takes away our agency to make positive changes in our lives. It makes us say “Woe is me, I will not write today, because I have Writer’s Block. I must wait for it to go away, and for Inspiration to return.”

I hope you see why this is problematic.

This is what I believe about Writer’s Block: When we are having trouble writing, there is always a cause (not a mystical one) and when there is a cause, there is a solution. When we are blocked, we need to figure out why and make changes to become unblocked.

I’m not going to diagnose why any specific writer may be having trouble writing. It’s an entirely personal thing, and there are innumerable causes. But I myself been having trouble writing lately, and after some soul-searching, I understand why.

The only times in my life I would ever consider myself ‘blocked’ have been while submitting my first novel, and now, in my last revision of my second novel. Both have the same cause. For me the business of writing is antithetical to the creative side of writing. Just knowing that this is my near-to-last draft and that I will be querying soon has been like an adrenaline boost to my inner perfectionist. Suddenly I’m examining every line, turning it over and over in my head before I can move on. Sometimes the pressure to write something perfect has become so overwhelming I can’t even make myself sit down to write at all.

This is not fun. And when writing is not enjoyable, I know something is wrong.

So because I now understood the cause of the “block” I was able to figure out some strategies to get past it. One of the ways I’m working on finding the joy again is by writing something I don’t intend to sell, just for fun. Writing for the sake of writing, for the pure joy of it. You have no idea how freeing this is. I can do anything, try anything, break every rule I know. I’m having a blast!

And suddenly, upon finding the fun again, I feel ready to go back to Restless and finish that last draft. I can see the bits I love in it, I can enjoy being with the characters, I can look forward to writing ‘the end’ once more.

I know I may get slapped for this, but I think we as unpublished writers don’t really appreciate the freedom we have at this point in the journey. The only deadlines we have are our own. We can take chances that contracted writers might have difficulty getting past their editors. We don’t have to worry about sales figures or trends or living up to our last book.

I, for one, am going to make a concerted effort to embrace the fun side of writing more. To try new things and to worry less about the future and the publishing business.

While I finish up this draft I’m going to try to have a publishing business blackout. If something is going on in  the publishing world, I really don’t want to know about it. It doesn’t affect the story I am trying to tell. In all likelihood it won’t affect my chances of getting published (as much as my over-analytical brain will try and convince me otherwise). It’s just not that important at this stage. What is important is the writing.

So, moral of the story: If you are blocked, find out why, then figure out a way to fix it. And try to have fun.

In other news, we’re going to pick out Mika on Saturday! I will take many pictures, I promise. You will have a blog filled with puppy love. We don’t get to take her home until the 15th, but we’re just so excited that we get to meet her!

Santa Monica
Thoughts On Writer’s Block

3 thoughts on “Thoughts On Writer’s Block

  1. Oh, I am SO right there with you on this post — about writers’ block, and about finding joy in the writing, and about realizing the perks of being unpublished. And I’ve decided to write something just for fun, too, just for myself, because I’ve been floundering around with the pressure and the publication roller-coaster thing, and I don’t want to lose the joy!

    Can’t wait to see puppy pictures! My “puppy” is almost 8 yrs old already, but I sure remember how adorable he was. (Okay, he’s still adorable, but in a different way, lol.)

    1. bethanyrsmith says:

      So glad this resonated with you, Shari! I think the publishing business can be tough on creative people, and we need to develop strategies to survive the roller-coaster, as you so aptly put it.

      What kind of dog do you have? I can’t wait until I’m no longer just an ‘aspiring’ dog owner!

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