So I was thinking about writer’s block the other day, that phenomenon every writer dreads. You’re speeding down the highway of your literary expression at 100 sentences per minute when all of a sudden your creative fuel tank runs empty. What causes this? How can it be cured? Is it a writer’s disease?
When I write, it’s almost as if someone else takes over my thought process and my swiping finger on the keyboard and the story takes shape on the screen while I watch in wonder. Many times when I go back to read what I’ve written I’m as entertained as anyone else reading, I imagine, just as if I’m reading it for the first time!
So what exactly goes wrong to cause this writer’s block in my case? To answer this I’d like to throw us all back to my childhood days. Then I had my toys and teddy bears and we were one big happy family. I spontaneously generated dialogue, tension and a plot (however childish), sometimes involving eight or more characters and the story flowed effortlessly! My brother would help animate some of the characters too and the dialogue between our characters would be as natural as if it were perfectly rehearsed. Time would stop and we would go on for hours without interruption, entertaining ourselves with the unfolding drama we created, pausing only to laugh hysterically.
Our creativity ceased whenever the adults were around. Soon as Mummy or Daddy walked by we would go blank like the toys in Toy Story when the humans came home. Thinking about it, I don’t think our parents ever sat in on our sessions. Perhaps they would have been able to give constructive criticism or praise us if we were actually making creative sense. But we couldn’t have this benefit, because we would freeze if they walked in. And this adult reality interference to me is the cause of writer’s block.
When I write I don’t need you looking over my shoulder. I become the free young child in the playroom all over again. Sometimes the adult me pops up midway and looks over what the child me is writing and then I freeze. It’s almost instinctive. It’s built into me or the process, I don’t know. But when I’m conscious that some adult is going to read this, or some adult is reading it already, I freeze. (This is why I refuse to keep a diary. The fear that one day someone would discover it is too overwhelming for me to be honest in my diary entries, thus ruining the whole point.) To kick out the “adult”, I have to do something that suspends my rational thought process, go somewhere scenic or listen to music or watch a silly movie.
I think about the balance between the rational and the creative, the logical and the emotional, the linear and the big picture. Are these two mutually competitive such that insisting on being rational and logical robs you of some part of your creativity? Are they even mutually exclusive? Story for another day.
Right now, I’m tackling writer’s block by insisting an article goes up here everyday. I don’t care about finesse or your approval (I’m trying hard not to) and I’m checking to see how bad my articles come out compared to those I have the luxury of time to mull over. To help this personal experiment, I don’t decide what I’m writing on until the day it is due. This is like walking into the exam hall totally blank and unprepared, being told you will write an essay but not being told the topic until the pen and paper are in your hand. I want to force the child in me to be more dominant because I believe his powers of creativity are stronger than that of the adult me. I want you all to watch and tell me what you think at the end of the month.
I want to be forever young 🙂
See you tomorrow guys.
It’s the men who walk straight who will settle this land,
the women with integrity who will last here.
(Prov. 2 vs 21, The Message)