Sunday, October 18, 2015

Craft of Writing: Pushing through the block.

At some point in time, every writer encounters the dreaded writer's block. Some will give up at this point and wait for the inspiration to return. This can result in a delay that lasts anything from a few days to a few years, in severe cases. Not every writer, however, will run up the white flag when they hit this challenge.

Writing based off of inspiration is romanticized a lot in the media. They present the image of a passionate author penning their magnum opus in a fevered frenzy of inspiration. And then there is the tragic figure of the author who is languishing in dismay because their muse has abandoned them (which is a fancy way to describe writer's block). For some reason, this dichotomy has really captured the imagination of the world. It leaves aspiring authors with the impression that writing is an all or nothing affair.

Writer's block, however, is not a problem that will kill your beloved project. It is the lack of discipline to continue writing even when you're not feeling passionate about it that will destroy your dreams. The hardest part of writing is not editing or revisions. (Though they are truly rough at times, I will admit.) The hardest part, in my opinion, is sitting in the chair and writing when you have no heart invested in the story.

This kind of grueling affair is not for the faint of heart. Writing when there is no romance felt for the project is exhausting and emotionally draining. Some of us find ourselves heavily doubting our adequacy when we are in that stage of work. This is where giving yourself permission to write badly is important. It doesn't matter how good what you write is. All that matters is that you write.

Forcing yourself to write is really hard to do. In my case, it takes a lot of coffee and a big playlist of music to keep me focused. Some one else has different tricks to keep themselves focused on their work. But maintaining focus and discipline is what get you through. A 500 word essay can be just as hard to write as a 50k manuscript when you're not feeling any passion towards it.

Making yourself sit in the chair and do your work, however, is what gets you to your goal. It takes dogged determination and effort to push through writer's block. It takes being full of 'piss and vinegar' (as my Grandfather called it) to ignore the nice little story that the media sells us that we should waste away waiting for our inspiration to come back. Some people talk about having a muse. They describe writer's block as the muse abandoning them. The ones who push through the writer's block are the ones who grab that muse and chain them to the desk. The muse may not talk to you, but you force them to stay present.

Sure, it is not as fun as when the muse talks to you. But, sometimes, forcing your muse to stay with you results in the muse telling you stuff that is even better than what comes in the fever of inspiration. Roll up your shirt sleeves, grab your cup of coffee, your favorite writing tool, and get to it, folks. That story is waiting for you to push on through.

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