Monday, July 26, 2010

Writer's What?

Writer's Block

Does it exist? Or is it what we say when we don't feel like working?

This week we'll be sharing our thoughts and opinions on the controversial topic of writer's block and sharing how we get past it. I know some people who've been writing since childhood. I know writers who have taken up the craft within the last decade after dreaming about pursuing a career in writing their whole lives. Still more, there are the people who write in secret - a few in journals, others penning stories they share with no one, or still more who jump from one project to another while never actually finishing anything they've started.

I'm going to be brutally honest here. Anyone can write. Not everyone can write well (and I haven't been at it very long, so I'm pretty sure I'm one of those folks who almost writes well). It's a craft so highly complex, that even after years of honing, you can always find something else to improve upon. There are so many variables to writing a worthy tale it can boggle the mind.

I have never actually experienced writer's block. I'm not so sure it exists. I can vouch that there are days I don't feel like writing. Days were my body aches from the arthritis-like symptoms of Lyme Disease, which last month went on for three weeks. There are days when I can't remember things from my first book and I stare at the screen trying to remember details I only penned last year. I have trouble concentrating, can't sleep some nights, get bad headaches, and my mood swings are a bitch (literally).

I've had times where I sit at the computer and the words come slowly -- and badly. Dialogue that reads stilted and fake. Action scenes that confuse and meander. The second book has seven POVs, so you can add "slipping out of character and making them all sound alike" in there too.

There was a section in book two, chapter seven, where I was supposed to describe the character I'm basing on my recently deceased nephew, Eric. I still haven't been able to go back and flesh it out and I'm on chapter fourteen now. For very obvious reasons, it's too painful to do. Does that mean I won't?

Hell no.

I'm not going to lie and say I've never quit at anything. I've quit at lots of stuff, and usually with very good reasons (or so I like to tell myself). But I can tell you this-- I've never quit when it really mattered. Like my relationship with my husband or parenting our children. Sure, there are days I want to kill him or moments I want to run screaming from the house to get away from my offspring. But I don't. I stay and we work things out.

Writing isn't something you do for someone else. It isn't something you do with the hopes you'll hit the lottery and your book will be insanely popular. You do it for yourself first and foremost, for everyone and everything else second.

I write to escape. Originally, it was to help me cope while I underwent a ton of medical procedures to find out why I had "issues" (and since we're talking a G.I. doc, let's leave it at that). Next came allergy tests to determine why my throat was collecting white blood cells and scarring up, making it difficult to swallow, in a condition called Eosinophilic Esophagitis. Writing helped me deal with the next diagnosis of Celiac Disease in June of '09, and it helped keep me sane when my world caved in with a third diagnosis of late stage Lyme Disease came only three months after that.

Writer's block? How about writing as a salvation? I'm not driven to write by characters that hold conversations in my head. I'm not ridden by a story and consumed in a mad helter-skelter dash to get the words out and onto paper. Nor am I possessed with a grand gift meant to be shared with the masses.

I write because I want to. Simple as that.

I sit my ever-widening butt in a chair and I write to think about something other than myself and the medications I must take to beat some stupid bacteria crippling my body and mind. I write to burn off the mental energy and frustrations that sear into me as I watch my life go by.

Sure, there are days I don't write. Lots of them in fact. But like everything in life -- writing is a choice.

I don't believe in writer's block. Just like loving my husband is a choice I will make every damn day as long as I live, for me, so is writing.

I choose to write. How about you?


  1. I'm not so certain about writer's block either. Perhaps we're simply lucky in that regard. Although I have been spending the entire year doing little but PR for my novel, blog (s), social network sites, etc., I usually do not sit down in front of the computer until I have mentally fleshed something out first. Then, I usually write until all of that has been written down. I save and walk away once I have done all that I can. I spend the time between writing sessions allowing my mind to figure out what will happen next.
    Thanks for the post, C.J. I hope you are currently having more good days than bad. Talk to you soon.

  2. I don't think I've ever been blocked, but like you, when life gets in the way I do find it harder to write. It's great when things are flowing freely and you're really enjoying what you are doing, but if you are feeling like crap and all you want to do is either climb into bed or get blinding drunk, I think we have to allow oursleves the time to do that too. Writing is for escapism and we should enter it whenever we want to, not because we feel like we have to.

  3. Hey, Jimmy! Yes, I have been lucky with relatively good health since 4th of July weekend, thanks for the well wishes.

    I wonder if writer's block is more for the people who write day in and day out, all day long, and I just don't get it because that's not me. I'm not sure. Interesting to see what others have to say.

  4. I agree! And thanks for commenting Marissa, it's good to see you over here!

    I don't get blinding drunk much anymore, (a sure sign we're getting older, when the after effects keep us from partying too hard!!) but I certainly enjoy a good steady buzz on the weekends.

    What happens when we become full-time novelists with huge book deals? That will be when we have to write. I wonder if it will not be fun anymore then. I'm sure the money will make us feel better about sitting in the chair and writing even when we don't want to! ;-)

  5. Loved the post, C.J.

    Stay strong and persevere.

    Oh and as for whether or not it will be fun to write when we're all bestselling authors with multi-book contracts, I'm sure your family will be there to cheer you on:

    "Mom, there's this new Wii system at Best Buy. Can you write another bestseller and get me one for Christmas?"

    "Honey, I'm having a mid-life crisis. I need a sports car. Write some more about Rafe and Viv."

    Well, you get the point.

    Seriously, though. Hang in there. There will be better days ahead.

  6. Greg - My husband is already talking about playing golf all days long when I get rich from my books! LOL

    Great post CJ! I'm glad to hear you are feeling better. I did some of my own research into Lyme's as I didn't really understand it. I give you even more Kudos now for doing what you do. You are seriously, my inspiration. (And thus the reason why I need to quit making excuses and get off my butt!)

  7. You researched it? Wow! I feel very honored that a busy mom with a toddler would be curious enough to check it out. Thank you! And for the high words of praise, especially coming from someone who does more in a few days than I do all damn week. ;-)

    Lyme's one of those things if you don't have a lot of it in your area you probably don't know anyone that has it bad - but once you do hear the horror stories it can scare the crap out if you! Deet is your friend! Use it wisely in or near the woods and you'll be fine. If Mason gets a tick don't panic, just save it and bring it to the pediatrician. Early intervention means a speedy recovery.

  8. Too funny! My penny pinching husband just let me order a Kindle (like 15 minutes ago - yay!!). I told him if I wind up self-publishing I need to know the ebook angle better. Ever the busniessman, he agreed.

    But a sports car? No. This is the man that drives a beater - a six year old VW Jetta diesel b/c it gets 47 mpg when he has to drive to clients. I hate the car with a passion and he just shrugs me off.

    Thanks for the kind words and the support - you know me, I'll never quit.

  9. Robert C. NelsonJuly 27, 2010 at 5:26 PM

    There seems to be a consensus that writer's block doesn't exist for the fine people here. Life might get in the way, first drafts might suck and need some editing, but the writing process keeps its fluidity. Amen! I agree wholeheartedly. If anything, my distorted mind is always in hyper drive and needs a little controlling from time to time. We don't have to be perfect the first time we write something down. I was just in the VA for some stuff and a few ideas just leaped into my head. Alas, I was hooked up to all sorts of whizzbang machines and couldn't write. No problem: enter the young nurse checking out the machinery. I had her write my musings down - yes, they caused her to turn a tad red. But she did it anyway. I thanked her and she asked me what brought that on. I told her I was a writer and my muse was talking to me. She said I had a foul mouthed muse. I apologized and said she should read some of my other goodies. Enter the backpack and a short story I'm writing for Apex. Well, she turned redder, but she said she was very moved by the honesty, the horror, and the sadness. I thanked her and said I was glad she got what I want my readers to get out of this.

    In short, like C.J., writers' block does not exist for me. We find the time to do what we must do. If I don't write, especially now, I will die. As long as I have a story to tell, I will live, and I will live well.

  10. I need to copy this down in a folder and actually read it when the block smacks me in the back of the head (like my mother used to do when I acted up.) I have a permanent, flat indentation between my mother and writers block....