Clare Davidson

Writing without compromise

Writer's Block is Real (and don't let anyone tell you it isn't)

writing-notes-idea-conferenceI've lost count of the number I've articles I've read (by authors), who claim writer's block isn't real and that you should just get over it, sit your butt down and write. That if you sit down and force yourself, words will come. If you claim otherwise, you're being lazy, making excuses or just plain procrastinating. Or, worse still, that you're not cut out to be a "real writer".

Well I call bull on that.

Let's clear something up first.

Writer's block means different things to different writers. Perhaps that's why it's so easy for some to brush off as procrastination. For some, being blocked, means they simply can't think of the words for the particular scene they're working on. Give it a bit and the words will come. No worries. For others, it can be a very crippling, very real thing. It's the latter form that I'm really talking about here.


man-people-art-taking-photoPerhaps we shouldn't call it "writer's block", but "artist's block". Creativity is a fickle thing. Some people have it and some people don't. Even if you do have it, you're not always "in the zone". Many famous artists throughout history have gone through periods where they have created vast quantities of amazing work and long stretches where they've produced absolutely nothing. Bottom line: you can't force it. And I'm here to tell you that you shouldn't.

Think back on all the times you've been "blocked". If you think about it, I'm pretty sure you'll discover it coincided with something else: a bad day at work; an argument with your partner; someone being sick; having a kid; a bout of depression, perhaps? Life can get in the way of creativity and sometimes, you can work through it. Other times, you really can't.

Trying to, could make it a lot worse.

black-and-white-person-woman-girlThink about it. The words (or whatever) aren't coming. You sit there and try to force them. You tell yourself you should be writing. You berate yourself because you can't. You search online for tricks and tips to get yourself going and end up reading an article by a well meaning writer, who tells you writer's block isn't real. You end up feeling even worse. And so on. It becomes a downwards spiral.

But if you cut yourself some slack, you're more likely to regain your creativity faster. Or you might not, because like I said, creativity is a fickle thing. Sometimes it just takes time. Sometimes, we all need a break.

jetty-landing-stage-sea-skyCreative types are notoriously terrible at taking time off. I always take my laptop on holiday, for instance. I always make time to write. In one holiday, I wrote 50k words in a week. Erm... why wasn't I taking a break? Why wasn't I giving myself time to recharge and enjoy spending time, in the sun, with my family?

Maybe "block" is a form of burnout. Our mind's way of telling us it's time to take a break. It could also be a form of depression (and I in no way mean to belittle depression by saying that). But it is real and should be taken seriously: by all kinds of artists and the people who they work with.

So if you feel "blocked", don't brush it off. Think about why and maybe in doing so you'll be able to identify the root cause and work through it. If you need a break, take it. If it's a signifier that something more serious is going on with your mental state, seek help (really, do it). If its because the project you're working on isn't working, take the time to figure out why and make the necessary changes.

But don't ignore it. Don't belittle it, or anyone struggling with it. Being an artist can be lonely at times, sometimes we all need to reach out.

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On 04/11/2015 Ruth Ellen Parlour said: Personally I feel that when I have writer's block, I want to write but struggle to, it's because there's something wrong with what I'm writing and it's not sitting right with me. Sometimes changing a scene, focusing on a theme, or writing from a different perspective can give me a different view so I can move forward. If it's really not working out then it's probably because I'm not enjoying the story, I've lost heart, or it's not turned out how I first imagined it.

On 05/11/2015 Clare Davidson said: Hi Ruth, thanks for commenting. I agree writer's block can often be a sign that there's something not quite right with the story. Writing from a different perspective to try to shake things loose is a good idea!

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