That’s what I thought until a young writer contacted me recently asking for ideas of how to get around writer’s block. She had had some success as a writer and was finding it hard to get started again. That very success seemed to be the cause of her anxiety, and that was holding her back from starting again.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised that if writer’s block exists, it has nothing to do with a shortage of ideas to write, or knowing what words to start with. Quite the opposite. It’s a form of paralysis caused by too many ideas to choose from, and a nagging self-doubt that any of those ideas will lead to anything of real quality.
I’m sure all writers have spells where we are distracted for periods. Writing is a solitary activity and it’s easy to get distracted by e-mails, social networking, marketing – anything other than writing. And I think it is here that we can lose some of the passion to write and let self-doubt creep in. We write a paragraph and it looks like c**p, compared to the work we’ve published before. We seem to forget that all first drafts are rubbish, and it’s only after the editing and polishing that the draft will begin to shine.
Some of the writing gurus say that the answer is for all writers to set word count targets per day, or per week; turn off the e-mail, Facebook etc. and focus on writing the first draft. They also suggest avoiding redrafting until the first draft is complete. Others have said that they will start the day editing the work finished the day before, but will not go back any further. This way they can keep up the daily count.
It’s probably all good advice, but it is not for me. I write when the creative juices are running. When I’m not happy with a scene, I sometimes leave it for days to let my subconscious work on it. Then I go back and redraft the scene, and any further structural changes before moving on. The time I spend thinking about the problem, for me, is just as valuable as the time spent hitting the keys. But then again, I’m fortunate, as writing is a hobby for me; it doesn’t have to pay for my board and rations, and I don’t have any publisher’s targets to meet.
If you’re a writer, have you ever experienced writer’s block? And if so, what was your solution?