Pinnochio came from a block of wood, and he wanted to be a real boy, but he had a problem with lying. If you want to be a real writer, but you’re blocked, this might be an issue for you as well.
If good bit of time passes with not enough to show for it, shame and self-loathing worm their way into your psyche. If you are asked about your writing, it feels too embarrassing to tell the truth, so you hedge a bit, or maybe a lot. You tell your friends, teachers, colleagues, or significant others that you are making progress, even though you really aren’t.
You may also delude yourself that the situation is different than it really is. At this point you feel badly about both your inability to write and the fact that you are deceiving others. More bad feelings now become associated with writing, making it just that much more onerous to sit down and face the monster.
In addition, you are now carrying the fear that some of the people you lied to will find out the truth, resulting in the possibility of humiliation and relationship damage. You become more isolated and wonder how you will ever get out of your predicament. Your stress level rises.
If this description rings true for you, you owe it to your writing to find a safe place to begin discussing your writing process – a writing club, group, therapist, colleague or cricket will do. A little bit of human support and understanding helps cut the shame and open the door to a renewed connection and vigor for your passion.
You are a real writer.
One of the anti-writing mind-states I am susceptible to is dread, which theMerriam Webster dictionary defines thusly: “to feel extreme reluctance to meet or face.” Perhaps you have felt this about writing too.
It is a curious thing to feel a profound sense of dread when the anticipated task is just writing some words. I mean, how hard can it be? I could understand it better if I was anticipating say, a waterboard interrogation in Guantanamo, or if I was put in restraints and forced to listen to The Carpenters Greatest Hits album in its entirety….but dread about writing? What’s up with that?
I am not an evolutionary biologist, but I am guessing that writing may, at times, make us tap into a set of rather primitive survival programs encoded in our reptilian brain that have to do with recognizing danger and running for our lives. My personal experience is that it is during the anticipation of writing when these reactions are most pronounced. The horror is often reduced if we find a way to become engaged in the writing process and handle the challenges one by one.
Our active and excitable minds become easily overwhelmed with Continue reading
On the face of it, you’d think that growing up in a household populated by writers would be a real benefit for a young, developing writer. I’ve seen this to be true, not so true, and both.
The benefits of having writing parents include exposure to more reading and discussing of books than occurs in other homes. A love and talent for expressing the written word gets into the blood from an early age. In addition, if a child’s primary role models are leading a life that includes writing, the child learns that this is a valid direction in life to consider.
The darker possibilities of having writer parent(s) is that they may have blocks and problems with their writing that generate negative patterns and associations with writing. Perhaps they also focus on their work so much they ignore basic parenting duties like feeding their children. They may also have too much invested in the child’s writing, and be overly involved or judgmental.
Another brutal reality is that if a parent’s writing career has been less than stellar, they may not truly want their offspring to enjoy literary success, and will communicate this directly or indirectly.
None of us escape childhood without a few or several emotional issues to contend with in adult life, and these issues may intersect with the writing process. If things are not going well with your writing, you may have to look at the beliefs and feelings about writing that you carry. If you grew up with family members who wrote, do some reflection on their writing process, and how they communicated to you about writing. There might be something useful to understand there.
Of all the possible diversionary activities one could engage in to avoid writing, why do so many people choose mind-numbing, pointless games like solitaire? Solitaire and writing are both lonely pursuits, so maybe they attract the same personality types. I’m of the ilk that would happily immerse myself into the most onerous writing assignment to avoid playing a game like solitaire. Each to his or her own.
Maybe I answered my own question with the term “mind-numbing.” Are you more likely to feel sharp pangs of guilt if you do something fun like eating a tub of guacamole and watching a movie? I know that plenty of people do this when they could be writing as well, but I believe the solitaire players must have a good reason for their approach too.
My hunch is that the trance-like dissociation that solitaire provides gives a sense of relief from the feelings that the writing generates. Just enough focus to occupy a brain lobe or two and hypnotize the player into an episode of several stress-free minutes during which consciousness of the writing task fades into obscure nether-regions of the psyche.
If solitaire is your preferred mode of writing avoidance, try playing it after you’ve written rather than before, and see if you spend as much time at it.
Shakespeare in Love is another good writer’s block movie. Young Will, as played by Joseph Fiennes, starts out the movie with no inspiration, a fickle girlfriend/muse, and plenty of pressure from the theater owner who depends on Shakespeare’s plays to pay the bills.
To top it off, during his session with an Elizabethan shrink it is revealed that his sexual functioning has suffered recently as well. Fortunately, a cross-dressing Gwyneth Paltrow appears and inspires enthusiasm on both the literary and romantic fronts. The play gets written and the show goes on.
It interests me that many writers, and other artists, have a sense that they communicate with something beyond themselves that is Continue reading
Debilitating thoughts that plague writers (e.g., “I have no talent,” “I will fail if I attempt this,” or “I am not a writer”) are generally exaggerations and distortions of the truth that have gained too much authority and power due to their endless internal repetition. They are a form of self-inflicted brainwashing in which the struggling writer is both the terrorist and the terrorized.
Dragging these thoughts into the clear light of day and examining them more objectively is one method of freeing yourself from being bullied and controlled by them. They are mental habits we have learned, not immutable “Truths.” They are also temporary experiences. Sometimes all we have to do is wait them out and they will go away.
If you become more aware of the mental processes connected with your blocks, you will at least have a fighting chance of escaping their control. There are some things you can do to alter your inner experience.
Start by identifying your own particular set of thoughts and feelings about writing. The self-assessments presented in The Blocked Writer’s Book of the Dead should help with this. Most of us have a handful of negative thought patterns that recur consistently. Try to hear them and make a list. The most common problematic thoughts generate the emotions of fear, resentment, hopelessness, or overwhelm. Look for these.
If you are only aware of feeling blank or daydreaming, try to Continue reading