Monday, March 31, 2014

There's No Such Thing As Writer's Block

Don't shoot the messenger, but this is what I believe.

Just like you, I've sat down to a blinking cursor on a blank page and been terrified that this time I won't be able to do it. The words won't flow, the plot won't come, the characters are just going to stare at me, hoping for direction. And every time, once I get my fingers warmed up and I type two or three pages of crap that I have to write first, I'm able to get to the good stuff buried underneath. This is why I say there's no such thing as writers block.

It's actual name is procrastination.

And the actual name of procrastination is fear.

We put off writing because we're afraid of the blank page, the dormant characters, the crappy dialogue that we're sure to produce. We're afraid of the plot kink that hasn't quite worked itself out yet, so we put off having to deal with it by jumping on Twitter, checking out Facebook, or surfing Tumblr for just a few more minutes.

I always tell new writers that they can't be afraid to suck, but I think that established writers need to be aware of that as well. Sucking is part of the process. No one has ever produced a first draft that anyone other than their mom would praise.

We ambush ourselves with self-doubt, whittling away precious minutes with ultimately useless activities, then tell ourselves that we'll write tomorrow. Tomorrow there will be more time. But the single paragraph that you write tonight puts you one paragraph ahead for tomorrow, and the three sentences you tack onto it during your lunch break gives you a head start on the evening. All those short paragraphs written in stolen moments, and choppy sentences you forced out of yourself before going to bed can be massaged into a coherent narrative when you're editing.

So don't be afraid.
Write the words.

7 comments:

Jayme said...

Every writer needs to read this post. So true!

HeatherCRaglin said...

I've been "without words" for a few months. I don't call it writer's block, I just haven't made myself sit down and write more than a paragraph or two, or work on minor edits. You're right. It comes down to fear. Fear of what I should write, but I'm afraid to write. I don't know that I'll start today, but thanks for the reminder. And it's okay that I don't start today.

Rena said...

This. When I was doing my graduate work I felt the piercing fear of facing down the cursor. Those dark times helped my fiction because I felt there was so much pressure in my grad studies, that one mistake would ruin it.

Well, I made lots of mistakes. I found my way around the fear by allowing myself to suck when I wrote. Sure, it has to get better as you revise, but my first drafts, good, bad, or wretched, all of them have permission to be stinkers. That's how I get around the fear.

Thanks for writing this, more writers need to hear it.

mfantaliswrites said...

True that.

Mindy McGinnis said...

Thanks everyone - I hope that it rings true for many!

Kel said...

Excellent advice! Procrastination is often fear in disguise-except maybe when it's laziness, or a combination of the two. :)

thomas h cullen said...

I decided in the end to just write The Representative from a sincere perspective - resulting in a far less amount of text!



The requirement of a word count on an author doesn't help, when trying to narrate a story: it may be that what you want to tell can best be told in just 300 words, as opposed to 3,000.



Knowing the story; establishing as much contextual knowledge about the characters is an answer to writer's block.