Writer’s block. I shudder to type those words, fearful the very act could trigger a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In case you haven’t deduced it already, writers can be a superstitious lot. We attribute success and failure to all sorts of circumstances that have no bearing whatsoever on the outcome. How much coffee you’ve chugged, for example. The music to which you listen. The color of your socks, for heaven’s sake. The Latin phrase for these fallacious connections is post hoc, ergo proctor hoc. Translation: after this, therefore because of this. After writing what I deemed a particularly amusing newspaper column one time, I remembered I’d sprinkled blueberries on my cereal that morning. It’s been blueberries and Cheerios for breakfast ever since.
Writer’s block has been described as a black dog from hell, creative constipation and — my personal favorite — muse repellent. Picture your mind as a sere landscape where no novel thought grows.
There are as many explanations for writer’s block as there are writers. Each affliction is uniquely torturous. I’m fortunate as a newspaper editor in there’s never a shortage of news to report. It’s only a matter of setting priorities given the restraints involved. There’s scarcely time to keep up and no time to overthink the process. Writing blogs? That’s a horse of a different color, one more likely to throw me ass over teakettle than carry me along for an enjoyable ride.
Perhaps the best antidote to writer’s block is mustering the confidence to get started. If you still suffer doubts, start anyway. I’m the kind of writer known as a “pantser” rather than “plotter.” I tend to write by the seat of my pants instead of plotting my progress or, God forbid, creating an outline. That makes the process all the more uncertain. I’m often pleasantly surprised, though, how one step leads to another. Before I’m aware of it, I’m headed in a different direction than I’d anticipated, but toward a better destination.
I suspect writer’s block also could be a symptom of an underlying condition. Writers don’t want to write. That could be as temporary a situation as they don’t feel up to the task at that particular moment. Take a break, then get back to it. But if a chronic aversion develops, some soul searching and resulting changes might be in order.
I could suggest still other remedies to writer’s block. Mark Twain worked in bed. So did Winston Churchill. Victor Hugo sometimes wrote in the nude, although that could prove problematic for those caught naked in front of their laptops.
What’s your remedy for writer’s block? I remain open to any and all suggestions.
In the meantime, I’ll let you in on a little trade secret. When writers believe they suffer from writer’s block and can’t think of anything to write about, there’s always a fallback position. They write about writer’s block.