I thought I’d write a post about actual writing, since I haven’t really in a while. Throughout my time as a writer, I of course suffered from that ol’ devil of Writer’s Block. However in my experience, writer’s block doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve run out of things to say, or that you can’t think of anything new: it’s that you’re thinking too much.
I usually get writer’s block when I have a deadline for an assignment, so it’s more that I’m being forced to write when I’m not at my creative best. Since leaving university, I actually don’t know if I’ve suffered from it because I haven’t given myself the time and space I need to really write. I just write when I feel like it, which I know is going a bit against what I want to do, which is get something published, but I’ve come to learn that good stories can be forced, whereas great stories cannot.
Whenever I’ve found myself stuck on what to do next, I’ve also learned to never look for inspiration on the internet. Reading stuff like this, sure, it gives you something else to do other than being frustrated with your empty head and equally empty page, but searching for inspiration online like “get rid of writer’s block!” or other such nonsense only alleviates the problem of not writing – they never actually help you to write what you want or need to.
Of course, this is just my personal experience – inspiration from pictures or other stimuli might work for some of you, but in the past it has never helped me, and in many ways, it actually stops me from being the writer I am. I once searched for ways to inspire me to write, such as writing games like looking at a picture and making a story, writing where you write things as they pop into your head, writing a paragraph and then switching the sentences around, working on an old story or idea, etc.
While these games are fun to do, all it does is give me even more bits of material that I save in a folder and do nothing with. Because games such as these don’t allow you to build character, or intention or meaning, they only allow you to write something, anything and then be like, hey presto! Writer’s block gone.
But it isn’t. The only reason these types of writing exercises help is because it stops you from freaking out about your own current project. Using these stimuli for writing is just as much affective as taking a walk or watching TV, maybe exercising, or even just good old plain “come back to it later” ways of letting your creative thoughts flow. When I force myself to write, it’s never satisfying and I’m never at my best. However, when I have the freedom to write when it suits me, I am able to create something I’m proud of.
The problem for me with inspiration for writing is that I find it far too easy – not writing something is not why I have writer’s block, I get it because I simply don’t know how to put into words what I want to say, and to make it good. At the same time, I’m fighting back all these clichés and restraints, making sure I don’t repeat myself, that my writing is accurate and not spouting bullshit. I’m making sure that what I’m saying is credible, how it fits in with the rest of the story, what this character feels as opposed to what they say. I’m thinking about what this character will do next, where I want the story to go. I’m thinking, is this story too generic, has it been done before? I’m thinking, what next? Where do I go with this, can I finish what I’ve started? Do I even want to?
I’m thinking all of this. And when I don’t, that’s when I write. I’ve learned to take what I have written and only then ask myself these questions. I’ve also come to learn that if I read back over my writing and find myself smiling, I know I’ve done a good job. I know then I’m proud of what I’ve done.
I’ve often been told that “You’re a writer, can’t you just do X,Y,Z?” Well, it’s not that easy. Writer’s are only human. Just because we write and we’re creative doesn’t mean we don’t get off days, that sometimes our work isn’t perfect. Writing comes from the head and the heart, and we make mistakes.
Writing doesn’t demand anything from us, it is our audience who demand, and this is the reason for writer’s block. That maybe I’m not good enough. But good enough for what? To be a best-selling author? To make someone read your work? Trust me, if shite like Twilight can get readers, I’m pretty sure someone will read your work and they will like it. So don’t write for others, write for yourself. What do you want to get out of writing? If you’re happy with what you’ve done, chances are someone else will be happy with it too, even if it’s only a part of your work they like.
There’s only so many times I’ve tried to write something based on a picture, or jumble up my paragraphs to get some “inspiration” but inspiration can only come from yourself. Whether that comes from a story that touches you, or something that someone says, the only person who can help you with writer’s block is yourself.
And that’s why I don’t pressure myself to write. I will or I won’t, there is no try. If it takes me a year or ten to finish my work, who cares? When in the end it doesn’t matter how long something takes, when that something is near perfection and not some whittled out words that come from neither the heart, nor the head but a pit of shit swirling the drain where lots and lots of books should be right now.
Take a breath, take a moment. The words will come when you least expect them.