Are We Thinking About Writer’s Block All Wrong?

As a content writer, I construct some form of writing nearly every day. These last few days, though, I’ve felt somewhat reluctant to write. Yet here I am, writing still, writing even when I don’t really feel like writing. When my living comes from forming strings of phrases, clauses, and sentences, I’ve gotten into the habit of digging deep and finding the words, even when they don’t want to come.

In other instances, though, I do face a good dose of writer’s block. Just take my creative work. In many a post, I’ve bemoaned how I’ve tried time and again to return to my novel, only to set it aside for months and months, all the while longing to somehow reignite the magic once again.

I’ve blamed my avoidance on my mind being too distracted, on the premise that I haven’t had enough time to devote, with the level of energy and passion that I know my novel needs. Hopefully, that will all change with the recent decisions I’ve made.

But maybe I’m thinking about it all wrong. What if writer’s block isn’t something that I can control? What if it is, as Will Dowd suggests in a recent article, an illness, something that I must suffer through?

“Writer’s block is a serious disease,” Dowd explains. “Whether it manifests as blank page syndrome or second novel disorder, the onset of symptoms is the same: an arthritic cramp in the creative faculty, a feverish spike of self-consciousness, and a peculiar amnesia that leaves the writer wondering how he or she ever managed to compose a single sentence.”

I can certainly attest to symptoms one and two.

I must say, thinking of writer’s block as an illness is a relief. After all, if writer’s block is like a nasty virus, it’s something that I picked up somewhere, somehow, without really intending to. I can try this writing exercise or that, but these “folk remedies,” as Doud calls them, will only lessen the symptoms. To get back to the writing that really matters, my novel, I’ll simply have to let the illness run its course.

Obviously, I can’t take this metaphor too far. Otherwise, as Dowd notes of several other authors, my writer’s block may be fatal and my novel will die a slow, sad death in its virtual desk drawer. But maybe I shouldn’t feel so guilty about having set my novel aside for what seems to be an embarrassing length of time. When I return to it, I expect (and hope) that I’ll find the magic is still there after all, patiently waiting.

As someone who loves the written word, I dislike the thought of distraction, lack of time, and even writer’s block getting in the way of what I enjoy most. I suppose, though, I can allow myself a little grace. “[M]aybe we should see writer’s block not as a plague to be avoided at all costs but as a rite of passage,” Doud suggests. “Maybe you aren’t a true writer until you’ve suffered an attack of writer’s block and lived to tell the tale.”

That suits me just fine…as long as my novel becomes the tale that I’ll eventually live to tell.

Katie Signature001


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