They say that you’re either born with the ability to write a good novel or you aren’t. But how do you know you have the ability unless you try? I’ve finished short stories and have quite a few of them. Like so many aspiring writers, I’ve begun countless novels. Either they didn’t have the momentum necessary to get me up the hill and down the other side to finished or I lost interest in them or both. That amounts to a major case of writer’s block–make that planet-sized case of paralyzing self-doubt, anguish, and despair. There’s no more woeful human being on earth than a failed writer, let me tell you. Why is that?
Books, teachers, articles, other writers can lead you right up to the edge of understanding what you need to do and how to do it. They can give you all the tools and advice in the world, but they can’t do it for you. In the end, it’s just you and the blank page or screen, possibly the loneliest situation in the world because it all exists inside your head, and there’s no place to run and find it “out there.” Everything that doesn’t have to do with that loneliness, that sitting there until it hurts while you find an image and a scene, is a distraction. Visual artists have their physical tools–brushes, chisels, cameras, clay. All the writer has is her mind, her pen, and the blank page or screen. It’s the cheapest way to go, but also the most anguishing. Certainly all artists have periods of non-productivity, by more ink has been spilled on writers block than any other kind. There must be a reason for this. I don’t know what it is.
That’s for starts. Then there’s the knowledge that everything has already been written by someone, sometimes many someones, and most of them have done it better than I could, or so it seems. But the biggest reason I find it so difficult to write a relevant novel is because I’m reading Program or Be Programmed by Douglas Rushkoff. My question: Is humanity becoming irrelevant? Because if we are, that means fiction is too. I can’t think about that. I just can’t.
But for now there’s no substitute for wrestling with the challenge of showing up at the desk every day. To write one true sentence. If I can do that, then maybe I can write another one. It’s a matter of making a huge (and I mean HUGE) mess, reminding myself constantly that I can clean it up later (this is new for me; until recently I thought everything had to be perfect right away because all those countless great novels that seem to spring fully formed from the heads of all those other writers, dead and otherwise, were my models). How can anyone know what she wants to write until she knows what she doesn’t want to write? I’m just a dumb writer, not a clever one. That may make me a plodder, but that’s how I have to write. I have to write so I can understand. My life, it seems, depends on it.
- Writers Block (brokenrulesmagazine.com)
- Plinky helps author overcome writer’s block (plinky.com)
- 13 Famous Writers on Overcoming Writer’s Block Tips (Part 1) (selfpubbooks.wordpress.com)
- What if there is no such thing as writer’s block? (dhartichatterjee.wordpress.com)
- Writers Block: Not All Its Cracked Up to Be (travelrelapse.com)