Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Surgery Block...F*CK&$% really?

Why do writers feel the need to beat themselves up about writer's block by comparing themselves to surgeons, carpenters, plumbers, etc.?  As if it doesn't feel bad enough, some of us are SICK of hearing writers who say stupid crap like, Does a surgeon get surgery block?  Does a plumber get plumber's block?

My answer is YES!  They do.  The very definition of writer's block is that you either feel unable to do your job for some reason or that you don't feel up to the task.  Often those two can overlap.  My question is: why do writers think that carpenters wouldn't have a bad day now and again?  That's all that is.  The day when you have to scrap some wood.  The day when you have to call in sick.  The day when you're just "off" for some reason.  Every occupation has days that are really humming and then crap days.  The truth of the matter is that since those occupations often have scheduled times and days in which "normal" people work, you have to work through those mental blocks by either taking a "mental health day" or just slogging through somehow. 

Why does this bug me?  Two reasons: 1. To deny something problematic means that you will never find the solution. 2. Missed opportunities to use writer's block to your benefit.  Writer's block can be a symptom of a very specific problem.  That is, the reason why a writer might feel inadequate is if s/he doesn't have the required information.  More research needed.  If you ignore writer's block, then how are you supposed to gain that information and thus write something of even higher quality?

If self-doubt is bugging you for no real reason, that's different.  But sometimes, there are real stumbling blocks that need to be dealt with and they very often fall under the category of "more information needed."  Maybe you need to learn something about writing plot, characters, pacing, setting, dialogue...or how to crochet (since your character knows how and you don't)...or a million other things, really.

If you need to dig yourself out of the self-doubt cycle, here's a favorite quote and I hope it helps you as much as it has me (or more):

...sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made.  I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, "Do not worry.  You have always written before and you will write now.  All you have to do is write one true sentence.  Write the truest sentence that you know."  So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there.  It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say.  If I started to write elaborately, or like something introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.

-Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

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