Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Writer's Block is a Myth!

I just had to jump in on this topic, so I'm posting on Wednesday this week. This week we're discussing Writer's Block. Both Greg and CJ had some great posts about it already, so make sure you read their point of view also.

Like the title of this post says Writer's Block is a myth! I truly believe that. I hear so many people say that they suffer from this ailment, only to discover later that it wasn't a true diagnosis. In truth, Writer's Block really turns out to be the following:

"I don't feel like writing today/this week/this month."

"I'm bored with my current WIP."

"I'm disappointed from the reviews my MS has received."

That's just a few. There are so many other excuses. Yes, I said excuses. You see, to me, writing is life. It's everything to me. The only thing that should ever stop me from doing it is, death or serious illness. Anything else I come up with to not write, is an excuse. I seriously have the urge to slap some people when they give excuses to not write.

"My muse went on vacation." No it didn't. You just aren't listening hard enough.

"I'm just so busy." No. Bad time manager, perhaps. And for me, I have no problem getting 1 hour less of sleep in order to work a little more on my MS - but maybe that's just me.

"Everything I write lately is crap." This is the worst one and bugs the ever living daylights out of me. So, let me get this straight. You want to quit trying because you think you write badly? Wouldn't it better if you kept at it - so that you can improve? Right?

Now, I have used all of these excuses and more myself. I do have ADD, chronic depression, and I'm dyslexic. There are just some days where it's too hard for me to write. But does that mean I still don't have ideas? Of course not. I muscle through the issues as best I can.

For the sake of honesty, there was a time in my life where that happened. I'm a recovering Alcoholic. During the years of my drinking, I had no ideas, no urge to write, nothing. I didn't even have the urge to live much less do anything else. It was the emptiest and most horrifying time of my life and I refuse to go back to that. So, for me, anything that prevents a writer from writing, is something they are dealing with outside of writing.  

Give you an example. I was trying to write a scene about one of my characters who had been physically abused by her boyfriend. I avoided it for days and told people I had "Writer's Block". In truth, the scene was just so close to my own personal experience that I couldn't write it. It was the hardest thing for me to do, to relive that same moment inside my head. In the end I wrote the scene - and goodness did I feel so much better afterwards! Not because I finally wrote the scene, but because it made me face a problem that I had been avoiding. I had lost relationships because I hadn't dealt with the feelings of that experience. Writing that scene helped me do it.

But - it wasn't Writer's Block. I was blocking myself, my own work. I was doing it to myself. Making an excuse to cover up the real issue. And I think that is what a lot of writers do at times. "Writer's Block" is the scape goat for all of us not to admit the truth. Maybe that scene is emotional for us, or perhaps a review really hurt our feelings. "Writer's Block" gives us the excuse we need to continue to hide the truth, even from ourselves. It's the umbrella to all the real problems that prevents a serious writer from writing.

Am I saying writers need to start professing all their problems to the world? No. Some things are better left private. But if we don't at least admit the real issue to ourselves, everything else suffers.

So, I have a challenge for you this week. Sit down and find out the real reason why you haven't been writing lately. BE HONEST! You don't have to tell anyone - but at least admit it to yourself.

Here, I'll even share my recent experience. My recent excuse is "I'm burned out." I participated in a Writing Boot Camp in June then jumped right into JulNoWriMo. I've had some wonderful writers crit my MS this month too. So what's the real reason that I've quit writing entirely these last few weeks? Was I really burned out? No. Not even close. I have been working on this particular MS for YEARS and when the reviews came back and said I still had SO much to fix, I was devastated. And I quit working on it. So the real reason here for me, was once again, me getting in the way of myself. I started thinking "What's the point?" and "I might as well quit writing all together if I suck that bad." Bunch of hogwash! What I really needed was a break from the MS. I had tried to edit too soon after rewriting. I wasn't ready for the crits and so reacted in a negative way.

How do I get out of this funk? Well, I could work on another WIP. But I'd feel like I'm quitting. I need to just sit down and do it. I know that once I get started, I'll be right back into the thick of it! Sure, the crits hurt. But if they make my story better, why would I feel bad about that?

Be honest with yourself about what is really blocking you from writing - then knock that wall down! Nothing can stop you unless you allow it.


  1. BRAVO! Your passion and dedication come through clearly in this post. I was sitting up straighter in my seat and ready to clap at the end.

    Don't let the crits get you down - remember to take some advice and throw out what you don't agree with. Opinions are like a**holes, everyone has them. In the end it is your work, not everyone else's. You have a great storytelling voice, a gift for stringing words together, and a passion that glows from within and out onto the page.

    There's a reason everyone hates revising and editing - it sucks big huge donkey b****. BUT if we want our work to be taken seriously by an agent or an editor we have to put ourselves through it... again and again and again... Until you literally hate your work and want to throw it out the window - not because it sucks or you think you're a hack, but because you just can't stand reading that same passage ONE MORE TIME.

    Never give up, chiquita. I picked everyone on this site because I believe in them and think each person will make it in the industry. Discipline to sit down and write each day? Anyone with the dream to write can do that. But Talent? You either got it or you don't.

    You've got it. I know it.

    You just have to believe it too.

  2. Funny post today on editing, Ana - check it out:

  3. Well said, C.J.

    And I thought I was picked for the comic relief.

  4. You guys are really making me want to go see a doctor. Most of the crap in my life is of my own making, I don't know how I'd deal with what you guys go through.

    Excellent post, Anastasia. Just excuses on the bumpy road of life.

  5. Anastasia, since you mention alcoholism in this context, imagine a blog post with a title declaring alcoholism to be a myth and the content (devoid of irony) supporting that contention with examples of...alcoholic behavior.

    Just because you have found strategies that work for you when you are blocked does not mean that the blocks weren't real. Your own stories provide examples of writer's block, plain and simple. I respect and celebrate your ability and determination to overcome those blocks, but to suggest that another writer who is afraid or frustrated or simply hasn't acquired the strategies you've acquired, is being cowardly, self-indulgent or lazy helps about as much as telling an alcoholic that the problem is an imaginary one.

  6. Anastasia, are you sure you weren't a drill sergeant in a past life? Like C.J., I, too, sat up straight in my chair upon reading your post. Not only that, I immediately went outside and washed my truck that hasn't touched water in forever, and painted the remaining three rooms in the house yet to be touched with color!
    Not really, but if I ever feel the first hint of slacker...I mean, writers' block come upon me, I will re-read this post.
    It is nice to meet you. Thanks for posting.

  7. Well said. Great post!

  8. Thanks for commenting, Ien, but I have to respectfully disagree. I don't think anywhere in this post (and I re-read it make sure) does Anastasia "suggest that another writer who is afraid or frustrated or simply hasn’t acquired the strategies you’ve acquired, is being cowardly, self-indulgent or lazy".

    Alcoholism is an addiction, just like the abuse of any drug (legal or illegal) can lead to, so I don't see how anyone could state it was a "myth"-- whether or not it is a disease could be a matter of personal opinion, but that is not what she was posting about.

    She talks about her own personal experiences with writing and what she has overcome and how she has done so. Her whole post, as are all our posts this week, are our opinions on the topic of writer's block. You are entitled to your opinion and we are entitled to ours.

    Some of the most successful writers will tell you the same thing - James Patterson, Stephen King, Janet Evanovich, Laurell K Hamilton - They don't believe in writer's block. They believe in sitting down and writing.

    The days we decide to not sit down and write, are they days we are blocked? Or is it simply we have no desire to write that day?

  9. CJ - Thanks for the comment. I know I shouldn't take crits so personally, but I guess it's just my make up. I always react that way it seems.

    Greg - I used to say that same thing, but honestly it's not as hard as it seems. It was harder to drink and watch my life slip away than it was to quit. Don't get me wrong, it's very difficult trying to build my life back and deal with the effects of my past. But, it's either this or death. So, I'll go with this.

    Ien - I don't think I implied that writer's who have "writer's block" are lazy or cowardly. If I did, I'm sorry but that was not my intent. I was merely trying to say that writer's block to me is something of the writer's own making and not an outside force that is stopping them. If a writer doesn't feel like writing that day, that's not laziness or cowardice nor is it when they are having difficulty writing a painful scene. However, in this industry if you don't write, how can you possibly succeed?

    James - Well I was raised by a Drill Sgt - does that count? I'm sure I sound harsh at times, but this is a serious thing to me, so I don't sugar coat things when I talk about it. Some people like it and some don't - but it did make me smile to see I got the famous CJ to sit up straight and pay attention! Then it was the icing on the cake when you did too! *sigh* I feel powerful today!

  10. CJ -That post was hilarious! Made me feel better. It's nice to know sometimes that I'm not the only one that over uses "that" and "was". Hopefully, I'll break the habit someday! But, since I KNOW I do that, when I edit the first time, I try to catch them all before I send it to crits. I need to get back to that, so I can post the updates in my crit forum speaking of which! Off I go!

  11. WHOA!

    You go, girl! Your spunky spirit definately sparked an interest!

    You made some excellent points - and once again, I find myself jotting down a few reminders to tape on my bathroom mirror when I start making excuses.

    Well done...

  12. [...] Anastasia? Of mythical proportions! Such passion grounded in reality… harnessed, how could such passion fail to break through even the cloudiest of days? But, as Einstein (I did science at school, too!) would no doubt suggest, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction; for every force, a counterpart. The very tone of Anatasia’s frank analysis is suggestive of personal beliefs that are borne of opposites; that could not exist without them. The words say as much. Indeed, such a strong a belief that there is no such thing as writer’s block suggests that there is… (oops, sorry, Anastasia – I feel your sudden urge to aim a slap!) [...]

  13. Great post! It's always a pleasure to meet like-minded people! I think too that writers' block is a myth, it's actually excuse as you said. May I suggest some of tricks when I couldn't write right away, in the moment I'm at the PC or over a textbook of mine I use when i don't have access to a computer? Watch some national geographic movie, or history channel, or cartoons, it depends on the book one writes, or read a book similar to that one writes, or remember some events from your past, childhood, etc... it always helps me, it should help all the other writers too? That way I created some of my heroes, characters one couldn't find anywhere else: weightless korks, fish-keepers, glowing, living balls, water dragons, rock pieces, Brown faces, etc... Best wishes to all like- minded people! let the wonderful noise of the sea always sounds in your ears! ( a greeting of the water dragons'hunters - my 1st Tale of The Rock Pieces).

  14. George -- I feel honored you would jot down my words for the bathroom mirror. I have a few phrases of my own in red lipstick on my mirror - and it works great. And once thing I'll share with you George about the panic stuff - on my mirror in big capital letters (bigger than the other phrases there) it says BREATHE! Very helpful indeed!

    Ivan -- It is wonderful to meet like minded people! Thanks for commenting. You have some great ideas. I write high fantasy so I usually pull out LOTR or one of the fantasy books on my shelf to get into the groove. But, I have found it's also good to read OUTSIDE your genre, to give your mind a break. Inspiration comes from anywhere for any reason! Oh and a story about dragons? I'd love to read that!

  15. Robert C. NelsonJuly 29, 2010 at 9:41 AM

    Short and sweet this time for your great post.

    F..k the critics! Just keep writing. You do it well.

  16. Hahah Well okay then Robert! And thank you!