Writers Block Revisited
I sense that writers block is the culmination of a reluctance to write, a final, cul-de-sac signal from a mind too tired of being ignored to tolerate yet more prevarication. The mind says, ‘I want a break, I’m not enjoying this’ and all too often we ignore it, press on with our word targets, or with trying to meet impossible deadlines.
Perhaps we identify too heavily with the end result of our work, rather than allow ourselves to enjoy creative processes. We like to focus on how many words we wrote today, but do we ever ask ourselves, Did I have fun today, while I was writing? Was I ecstatic for five hours? – which would be an amazingly worthwhile experience. How many workers, these days, can honestly put their hands up and say, yes, I worked for hours today and whaddaya know, during every minute of my time, I felt like I was in heaven!
Setting ourselves unrealistic targets has one advantage: our target focusses our thoughts on the task ahead. For example, I might say – I need to get Lisa Somerville finished by the end of September this year, then Susan Scott by the end of December, and Pip by March next year. Great! Got a plan, an idea, a strategy to aim for. Which is a great way to motivate me.
But if we then insist that we have to do this, meet these targets, come up with the goods instead of enjoying the process – which should be fun! – we start to fret, worry, and obsess. And, more importantly, how on earth can we maintain unrealistic deadlines if real life intrudes? Bereavements, heartbreak, family crisis, how well do we handle these, if we are beating ourselves up about not writing today, or about not networking on FB recently.
Typically, a full-scale case of ‘can’t write, will never write another word, ever aaaarggghhh!!!! which is either a full scale panic or a full scale blank wall, is preceded by weeks, months, and even years of hints, nudges, that quiet reluctance which would like to quit, rest, leave it. Even obsessing over details can hint at dissatisfaction, a hatred of deadlines set by other people (or by our own ridiculous expectations).
You might have to manage your time with a publishing deal that requires you to write a book a year, and you stubbornly refuse to farm out the editing, insisting that only you can do it justice. It may be that you don’t want to disappoint your fans, your publisher, that you need the money to finance a new home.
But if none of this brings you joy, eventually, your mind will simply sit down on the floor of your creative space and refuse to budge an inch: causing devastating emotional collapse. And all because the lady loved Milk Tray and wouldn’t allow herself to enjoy the company of the man who brought her chocolates.