Motivation and the Writing Life (Part 6 of 8)
THE MYTH OF WRITERS BLOCK
Speaking of brick walls, what about writer’s block? Personally, I don’t believe there’s any such thing. I’ve heard horror stories about writers cut off from the flow of their creative juices. Karin Mack, Ph.D., author of Overcoming Writing Blocks, describes writer’s block this way: “You’re paralyzed. You feel panicky, terrified, your mind is blank. You put a fresh page in the typewriter . . . and then you freeze. Nothing happens. Zero. Zilch.” Come on. Did your fingers freeze up? Did you get bitten by an Amazon arachnid, shutting down your central nervous system?
There’s a simple way to break this supposed writer’s affliction, and that’s to simply write! Jot down anything that comes to mind—anything! Write about your goals, your hopes, your aspirations. Write about your dreams, your past, your hurts. Write about your fears. Make up a character. Make up a character that starts to talk to you. In complete sentences. Out loud. Play with the words. Write a simple poem, write a complex poem, write an epic. There’s no such thing as writer’s block as long as your fingers are moving and words are spewing across the page. Even if it’s the same word over and over again.
When I lived in Los Angeles back in 1986 and 1987, I took a continuing education class through UCLA Extension. The teacher, whose name I’ve long forgotten, taught us a simple but extremely effective way to warm up before a writing session, or to unblock a constipated muse. Called the Ten-minute Timed Torrent, you merely write for ten minutes whatever pours out of your mind through your fingers and onto the computer screen or paper. Just set a timer and time yourself. This is a brainstorming technique which loosens the grip of fear from your creativity and gets it moving. It allows the creative artist to come out and play while your internal editor twiddles his thumbs in the background, waiting for his turn.
We writers actually suffer from MPD, containing within us at least three separate personalities critical to our writing success: the artist, the critic and the business person. The key is to get all three of these guys working together for your good, and working when they’re supposed to.
The first personality, the artist, is the free-spirited child within each of us, the side of us created in God’s image, the personality that creates. This is the aspect of our personality we most like to hang out with, the poet, the dude sitting cross-legged on the beach and staring at the sunset with a journal and pen lying next to him. Left alone, what the artist can achieve is boundless, inspirational and life-giving. To unleash the artist and participate in his creative ability is why we write.
The second personality is the critic, the editor, the old schoolmarm who growls, “A preposition shall never be used to end a sentence with.” This is the personality that gets on your case while your fingers are hammering the keyboard and the words are zooming across the screen. “Oh no! That verb does not agree with that subject. And couldn’t you think up a better transition than that? C’mon! This is horrible! What happened to your point of view? Tsk, tsk, such lazy writing.” The editor must be taught to keep his mouth shut until the artist has finished spitting out the story, then he can be allowed to go hog wild with his red pen. The editor’s catch phrase is, “Writing is not writing, it’s rewriting” (Thanks, Dennis Beck).
The third personality is the business person, the salesman. This is the one who takes the artist’s creation, polished by the critic, and peddles it to agents, publishers, editors, and swarms of art festival and craft fair enthusiasts.
There’s a saying that writing is ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration (and, according to Lucky Stevens, 50% procrastination). Writing is a lot of work. Most of the time, if we’re actually paid for it, our writing may only be worth pennies per hour, hardly a wage worth bragging about. But most writers I know would gladly give their writing away if they were promised publication. There’s a sense of accomplishment in seeing your name in print, standing proudly above an article, poem, or short story in a book, magazine, or newspaper. All it takes is doing it.
(Next up: Developing and Sticking With the Writing Habit, Part 1)
Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes