Writers spend hours and hours talking about writer’s block and in my opinion, there’s no greater waste of time. Workshops at conferences are devoted to the topic, and writing magazines often run articles offering tips on coping with that paralytic state. For those of you who are readers instead of writers, writer’s block is a panic-inducing feeling that you can’t write a single word. You may have an idea, but can’t get it on paper. The feeling may last for minutes or it may last for years. There are all sorts of suggestions for getting past writer’s block. Here is my unsympathetic suggestion: snap out of it.
My first four books didn’t exactly write themselves, but I flew through them without a hitch. Then my “perfect” marriage of twenty years ended. It was one of those sudden, found-a-picture-of-the-other-woman endings. To say I was devastated is an understatement. To make matters worse, I’d just closed my private psychotherapy practice to write full time, knowing my husband’s income would support us both until I began making more money. So, in addition to riding an emotional roller coaster, I had the very real fear of not being able to support myself. I didn’t know where I would live. I’d lost the person I’d thought was my best friend as well as the future I’d mapped out for myself. For the first time, I couldn’t write. I’d stare at my notepad, my mind a pile of useless mush.
I had a contract for my fifth book, though, and I needed to earn a living. I was able to get a few months’ extension on my deadline so that I could move and get my life in order. Then, in my new digs and beginning my new life, I went back to work. I had writer’s block then … and I’ve had writer’s block ever since. Writing has never come easily for me again. Yet I’ve written fifteen books since then. How?
I just did. That’s all.
Yes, I fret (as my faithful blog readers know!) I stew, I gripe, I complain and panic. But I don’t quit and I write even if what I’m turning out on any given day feels like garbage. I can make something pretty out of it later; the important thing is to get words on paper.
I’m not amazing. Not brilliant. Definitely not disciplined! What I am is committed to my job, and my job is writing. Teachers and doctors and bank tellers and social workers can’t stay home from work for months on end when they feel stale or blank or uncreative. One can argue that writing is different in that it’s dependent on inspiration. On magic. I’ve made that argument myself, because it’s fun to think of my work as something magical. But really, it takes more skill and perseverence than magic to be a writer. The challenge is to learn to work when the inspiration is absent. If I can do it, you can too.