Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Writer's Block? Feeling... clogged?

Are you a writer? Or do you just think you're a writer?
Writer, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)

So if you're a writer, do you get "Writer's Block"?

I don't myself.

I never have times when I lose my writing capability, though sometimes my creativity is less than others, but I can always still write. If ever I have what people call, "writer's block", perhaps my writing isn't as great as other times, but I can always write. If you can think of a word, if you can spell it, you can write. So then, how, can you have "writer's block"?

I always felt people that said they had "writer's block" were either not real writers, or just didn't want to write, either not knowing what to write, or fearing the repercussions of writing; being that they would be judged either by themselves or others. It's always far easier to not write, than to deal with rewriting (writing is rewriting, after all, an old adage). Many people try to write, then never do, so they can say they ARE a writer. But, writer's write.

If ever I have trouble moving forward on a piece of writing, I might switch to another form (screen, short story, novel, nonfiction, blog, etc.), then return to my original troubled piece, later. But, I will switch gears, go for a walk, visit another town for a nice afternoon and lunch, generally, change my lifestyle for a short time (and hour, hours, or day).

Go climb a cliff, do something a little scary, jump out of a plane, maybe jump out of a plane that is even in the air, you can scare the hell out of yourself, experience near death even (BUT try hard not to actually die, otherwise, it really really cramps your writing).

My brother used to say, when things go wrong (of course, he was talking about LSD at the time in the 70s), to change channels; at times all it takes is literally, changing the channel on the TV (experienced THAT once myself).

On the other side of this, is the "I just don't want to write" syndrome. Which, is different. In that case, it's also simple. You have to want to write again. If that's the issue, some of the above works, but so does therapy, or group therapy (could just be drinking at a bar with friends), or personal therapy (could just be meditating).

I've had some experts say that you need to visit the extremes of what you are capable of, on a daily basis, otherwise your body / mind (chakras?) become clogged. So, meditate, later in the day, exercise (hard, sweat), or vice versa; though there are other ways to accomplish this (stare into the distance (hard) for a while, then examine something extremely close up; do the same for all your senses, THEN sit and write. Just some suggestions.

Another thing that works very well, is research or reading. Most authors worth their salt say that if you want to be a writer you have to read. It's more important to read when you are writing, than when you are not writing. It stimulates. You may have to gauge what you read however. If you read a writer that you admire, it may intimidate you to the point that you cannot write. If that happens, merely switch and read some of a writer that you like, but who really isn't that great of a writer. 

I've said for most of my life that in order to get myself to do things, I sometimes have to trick myself into doing it. Or, reward myself. Example: I had rented a house one time, I was in that house for three years. It was perfect when I moved in, the owner lived directly across the street. One of the things in the contract was that I maintained it as it was when I moved in. That meant, among other things, I had to keep the lawn mowed and the yard trimmed.

So, what I did was to get on the ground with an edge trimming too (an old butcher knife actually, I didn't have one of those fancy wheeled trimmers like I have now). I put a bottle of beer about five feet away, and I worked in the hot sun, not getting a drink until I worked my way up to that bottle, which I would then move another five feet away. I rewarded myself. For me, at that time in my life, it worked.

And that works now. You just have to find what that motivator is. You don't get to eat or see a movie, or watch TV, listen to the radio, or go see a friend until you finish ten pages. Or you set a goal of so many pages a day. Then you don't have to work for a day. Or, whatever works for you. For myself, I write a lot daily.

I have my day job which can be mentally demanding, then I work on my personal writing goals in my off hours. Sometimes, I'm so burned out at night, that I just take the night off from writing. Sometimes, I have such a bad week, I have to wait until the weekend. So, I adjust my goals to work with my reality and those things that crop up, unforeseen from time to time.

The point is, I really never got writer's block. If anything like that could be considered to be happening, I switch to another form of writer that is less intimidating, or more pleasurable to do. The key is, don't stop writing and you can never get writer's block.

You have to remember to work with yourself. You also have to consider a balanced life. Writing 16 hours a day, every day, is just not sustainable. You need people time, pleasure times, relaxation, exercise, variety. Treat yourself like a person and don't expect more than you can do on a sustained basis. Then when you do need to really push through a time when you have to work day and night to finish a project, you should be able to. It's like working out so that when you need to exercise hard and fast for a sustained period of time, you may in the end be exhausted, but you can do it.

I also see this in a way how I  use a musical instrument. If you want to learn to play the guitar, say, be sure you play it daily. I have a guitar in the dinning room. Every time I go into the kitchen, I see it. Sometimes, especially when I'm cooking, I have down time from the cooking and pick up the guitar. If I know I will have no time for playing that day, I will pick it up, run the scale up and down at least once, put it done and know I played it for the day. Seems like its not much, but it is.

The same goes for writing. Sometimes, its all in your definition.

Think positive, work reasonably but frequently, and don't stop.

For more on Writer's Block, see Mark David Gerrson's blog on it.

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