Back in April, I posted about procrastination. Since then I’ve been thinking about writer’s block and whether or not it actually exists. Sure, I struggle to write at times. Actually I struggle to write most of the time. But I can usually identify a reason: fatigue, stress, not knowing my characters well enough, not knowing where the story is heading, not being in a creative mood… I can give you any number of reasons why I can’t write today. But is it “writer’s block”? Or is it just me making excuses?
In the movie Stranger than Fiction, one of the lead characters is a writer who is unable to come up with a way to kill off a character in her book. The plot paints her as a wildly successful writer who is paralysed by her own success. But is this necessarily “writer’s block” or a case of someone who lets herself be overcome by circumstances to the point where she can no longer write?
I’ve read several theories about what causes writer’s block – it’s a result of stressful conditions, it’s a disruption to activity in a particular part of the brain, it’s a writer running out of inspiration… I’m not arguing these aren’t all real issues that can halt the flow of words but aren’t we using them as excuses? We’re too tired, too stressed, too busy to write, so we tell ourselves we have writer’s block. What other profession would accept this as a valid reason for not producing the required work? I’m sorry, I can’t paint your house today because I have painter’s block. I can’t clean your teeth because I have dentist’s block. I can’t sell you any milk because I have shop assistant’s block. It’s really quite ludicrous when you think about it.
So I’ve decided I will no longer believe in writer’s block. If Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny stop coming around because we no longer believe in them then I choose to believe that writer’s block will disappear if I don’t believe in that either.
This doesn’t mean I won’t ever be too tired or too busy to write. It doesn’t mean I won’t ever have one of those days when I sit at the computer for hours without writing a single word. It doesn’t mean writing will suddenly become easy. It just means I have one fewer excuse for why I’m not producing what I know I can.
What excuses do you dress up as writer’s block?