Writers Block Isn't Real
Remember in the Matrix where Neo goes to the Oracle and he meets the child with the spoon in the waiting room? The child says, "There is no spoon. …it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself," then precedes to bend the spoon at will with his mind. Well Neos of CC, there is no writer's block, there is only writer's avoidance.
Remember in the Matrix where Neo goes to the Oracle and he meets the child with the spoon in the waiting room? The child says, "There is no spoon. ...it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself," then precedes to bend the spoon at will with his mind. Well Neos of CC, there is no writer's block, there is only writer's avoidance.
Often times as writers, we can feel that no matter what we do, no matter what we try, we're blocked. Blocked off from all that amazing content in our brains that we know is stuck in there. Yet, no matter how much we want to get these great ideas out onto a page, we don't. We tell ourselves that it's not our fault. The words just won't come like they used to. It's an off day, week, month, or even year. The truth, while not always an easy thing to accept, is simple. It's us.
The truth is, writer's avoidance is real and only we have the power to fix it.
But what is writer's avoidance?
Writer's avoidance is whenwe don't write because we don't want to experience the negativity that we've come to attribute to the writing process. I've had some writers tell me they stopped writing after a particularly nasty review. Others have told me they stopped because the last time they wrote it was unproductive. I've even shied away from writing on a particular story when I'd been writing it for so long and it just wasn't as fun as it had been in the beginning. All of these experiences are unpleasant. So ask yourself, have you ever done something unpleasant and then done it again? Sure, the answer is probably yes, I have a 9-5, too. But if you didn't have to, would you?
That's the thing about writing, especially when many of us are not fulltime authors. We don't have to come back to the work. It's only if we want to. It's a labor of love, as they say.
So what are some practical ways we can overcome avoidance?
The first step is realizing that this is a mental issue and so it must be overcome mentally. Our brains are tools, but it's our job to program them right.
Many writers set up a specific time that they write. I write every day between 9pm-10pm at the very least. My wife knows I'm busy during this time. I often write beside her on the couch or in our office. Even still, she knows not to ask me to do anything during that time unless it's an emergency. Having a specific time helps to train our brains that this is what we do every day from this time to that time, there is nothing else so get used to it squishy. After 30 days, the habit is formed and you'll sit down to write on auto pilot. Like when you arrive at the office and realize you don't remember driving at all.
Finding yourself in your seat might not be your issue. You might find yourself sitting down only to stare at the blank screen for your entire session. This is when we need to address the reason we are avoiding. If we're bored of our current story, a great way to get out of avoiding is to write a different story. We stay writing and we learn new things so that when we go back to our main project, we're better than when we put it on hold. This can also be done in reverse when we're getting bored of the new story. Once we've been on the new story long enough, we might run into the same problem. That's okay, I have ADHD, too. I bounce between three projects when using this technique to keep the projects feeling fresh and exciting. Be careful with this technique as it can lead to story abandonment. Make sure to check back in with the other story from time to time. If the joy doesn't return after a decent break, then maybe it wasn't meant to be.
I find that when I have unproductive sessions, a great writing exercise that gets us around avoiding the project is to write the same chapter from another character's perspective. Taking the spotlight off our main characters and giving it to a side character can help, not only in getting through the scene that's been trapped in our mind's eye for days or years, but it also allows us to dive deeper into our secondary characters and get to know them better. It doesn't even need to be a character that is there in the real story. The main character is being harassed by an old lady but we just couldn't get the old lady to sound right? Drop our goofy sidekick in there and see how the old lady handles him instead. Or maybe drop the villain in to see her reaction. Even taking the old lady and writing her in a different scene helps. This way, we're still working on the same project, but we're tackling it from a new angle, one that hasn't left us with a bad taste in our mouths before.
The Final Hurdle
The last thing to train your brain on is the simple reality that no matter what our job is, the work will always push back at some point. This is natural. This is our brain saying, "I'm bored. I want something different." But we know better. We know we want to write. This is where our passion lies. This is where we want to be. Our brains are like five-year-olds, they don't know. They just think they know. "I want to be an astronaut." Yea? Well that's not happening, pal. I'm thirty and barely passed high school math, nobody's sending me to space. Accepting the reality that the work is going to feel like work sometimes is just another step in the amazing journey that we decided we wanted to take. Don't shy away from it. It means that you're doing it! You're on your way to becoming an author.
M. A. Swaim
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