Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Obligatory Writers Block Post

Every author everywhere gets the question, "What do you do about writers block?"

At the event last Wednesday, it was one of the first few questions presented to Neil Gaiman, who has answered this question multiple times already if you've ready any interviews with him.

The crux of the message is that "Writers Block" is a made up ailment by a super-creative group of people who are suffering the same apathy anyone else does of just not wanting to work at the moment.  Engineers, doctors, plumbers, secretaries all have days when they are in a funk and are not as productive as they usually are; they don't decide to take time off due to engineer-block, doctor-block, etc.  Writers are clever folk who decided they get to say this.

That’s not to say writers don't get stuck or bored with a project.  The point is that Writers Block is no excuse to stop working.  Someone in any other career will feel bored or stuck, too, but they have to show up and force themselves to perform.  Period.

If writing is your job, you do it.  If you’ve been writing for a while, you probably have several projects you could be working on if you are stuck on something.  If what you're stuck on isn't on immediate deadline, great! Work on something else.  Don’t spend hours on an online game or in front of TV.  Write.  Something.

If you are stuck on what's deadline, congratulations, you're working like everyone else in the world. :)  You have to plough through and force words on the page.  And then edit them.

As Gaiman also pointed out, when he looks back on a finished manuscript, he knows he had days where the words flowed like magic from his fingers and he knows he had days where he fought to get 100 words on a page, but he cannot tell which was which.

Over the past few weeks, I've had a number of projects that needed to get finished.  I was working on my short story for UnCONventional, and found myself at a stuck point.  I knew there had to be a face-off between the protags and the antags, and I knew who would win, but I wasn't entirely sure how.  Fortunately, I had plenty of other deadlines, and some new characters for a story I may or may not write (It depends how long they stick around in my head) distracted me in my "down" time of laundry and dishes.  Spending a few days not thinking of my issue, but working on other stuff that was due and letting my imagination just wander, was exactly what I needed.  The "fix" came to me in one of those almost-awake dreams that I could still remember – the ones that arrive between smacks of the snooze button.

Now, if I had to, I probably could have just buckled down and written through it – but it would have taken more words and edits.  It still would have gotten done. 

The lesson?  Start work ahead of time so you have room to play with when you get stuck.  Have multiple projects you can work on to give stories a rest.  Never, ever give up and give into the myth of Writers Block as an excuse to not write. 

Just write.


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