Saturday, February 9, 2013

Writer's Block

In 2012, I had the worst writer's block in my entire life; I went almost six months without writing a complete sentence of fiction. My interest in creative writing was at an all-time low, failing to conjure ideas. In that time, I didn't edit my novel or short stories, I didn't send out manuscripts or queries, and I didn't scribble anything in my notebooks. The only thing I was capable of doing was blogging, and as anyone might notice, majority of the entries when I started this endeavor were art, not writing.

Yesterday, I went over to my drawing table to create a map and discovered a sketchbook covered in dust. I realized how severe my writer's block had been when I opened to the last page I had written on and found, "Fuck you," in bold letters, dated, and accompanied by a sad face giving me the finger. I laughed.

I remembered a few of the things I tried to do to stop the block, all of which failed. After reading online that exercise helped, I quit smoking, bought an exercise bike, and started running. I carried a pen and notebook for when inspiration struck--neither has been used. I made random lists (notably, two of those lists became drafts for my top 10 movie posts). I got hammered on weekends off beer and whiskey and shots of Fireball, for I found in college that I could sometimes use the depression of a hangover for motivation. Now and again, I pulled a random book off my shelf and typed out the first chapter, trying to trick my brain into production, trying to experience the flow of creativity by living vicariously through another author's words.

Where the writer's block came from, as I've never experienced it at that magnitude, I don't know. I've read it can manifest through fear, anxiety, life changes, doubt, even success. All I know is as suddenly as it appeared, it went away. One morning, I woke up, brewed coffee, sat at my computer, and started typing. I didn't shell out a manuscript or write anything profound. I didn't write anything prolific either, but I wrote two pages, which turned into ten pages, which, in the course of two months, turned into four chapters and a short story. None of those pages came easy. Those two pages that got me rolling took about eight hours. Those chapters took weeks, and when I was confident enough to write the short story, I belted it out in a day.

I actually believe this little blog of mine was a huge help. Week after week, I forced myself to post whatever was on my mind. Regardless of how I felt about the quality of those posts, they were evidence I could still write, and I found myself looking at literature, television shows, movies, and art in a critical light, then applying what I learned to my own writing, even if that application was in my mind and not on my computer screen. Other aids were rereading Stephen King's On Writing and Strunk and White's Elements of Style. Reading was a benefit; my block shattered soon after I dove into the books I received for Christmas.

Slowly, I regained the drive I had before the writer's block, and I started clocking in as soon as I woke in the morning, getting back on schedule. I don't know if any of the methods I used would assist anyone else in overcoming their block, yet I hope they do. Getting a family member or friend's take on it, though I didn't do so myself and hid my struggle until this post, might help too. I'm just glad my brain is working for me again, because its strike was torturous.

3 comments:

  1. well, I relate. The only way to write is to write, even if it's crap.

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  2. I'm glad you laughed when you found your fuck you message. I remember when I had reader's block for over year. I didn't read a single book. It was rough. Anyway, I'm glad you are writing again. :)

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    1. I've had times where I didn't feel like reading for weeks at a time as well, never a year though, but I've had droughts as well, where I'll suddenly struggle to get through a book. Recently, it took me a month and a half to finish the last 150 pages of World War Z. I was reading about 10-20 pages every few days.

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