Writing Disorders #1
I have writer’s block. Since I won’t have to write anything down anymore, not even a grocery list, I’m expecting to be happier now, with more free time.
I’ll watch television without critiquing the dialogue or plots. I can read a book without thinking about flow or sentence structure. I’ll talk to friends and relatives without getting ideas for a new character or dialogue.
My writer’s block came in the middle of typing: “Penelope ran into the dark bedroom, fumbled for the light switch and….” my mind went blank. My fingers hovered over the keyboard. The cursor flashed on, off, on, off. I sat there for ten minutes, with Penelope still fumbling for the light switch, before I got up from the desk without looking back.
I hope I will eventually cease to mourn the loss of my writer friends. I expect they’ll keep their distance considering the circumstances. Writer’s block is highly contagious.
I’ve had other, less severe writing disorders like writer’s distraction, writer’s word block, writer’s avoidance and writer’s interruptus. None of these are as devastating as a total block but they do interfere with the writing process.
During a typical onslaught of writer’s distraction, I’d be delving into the story, playing with the prose, inserting symbolism and whatnot, and an hour later find myself wandering around Walmart or watching a rerun of Gilligan’s Island with no memory of having left the desk. I tried once to solve this problem by tying myself to it. When my husband noticed he suggested I try that with the stove instead. He got away before I got the knot undone, but I’ll get him next time.
Writer’s word block was frustrating, but usually overcome within minutes. If not, I’d call a friend, my mother, or even my husband and ask, “What’s that thing called that flies in the sky, has an engine, and a pilot? It’s an airplane you say? Thanks.” I’ve learned not to call up people who don’t write. They just start spreading rumors about a mental problem, which can be quite difficult to dispute. I mean, dispel.
Writer's Avoidance / Interruptus
I definitely won’t miss writer’s avoidance. This obstruction to the writing process is characterized by nagging suspicions that one should be mopping the floor, making bread from scratch or developing an antidote to the common cold instead of playing with words.
However, if there was an unexpected need for a chore to be done, such as mopping the floor because the dog just vomited on it - that is technically writer’s interruptus. My life, when I wrote, consisted mainly of interruptions. Now a productive train of thought won’t be interrupted if I hear things like “Mommy, what’s for dinner?” “Honey, do I have any clean underwear?” or “We have to talk about your job performance.” I used to integrate these real life scenarios into my stories, living these interruptions to their fullest. Now I’ll have to interact without any purpose.
I consider turning to alcohol to cure my writer’s block, never mind that it’s not even noon, but my refrigerator yields only two cans of Budweiser and a bottle of cooking sherry. Since I’m a wine drinker and the cooking sherry has congealed into a putrid clump of slime, I remain sober.
Coffee worked in the past, but I recently cut my caffeine consumption. I handled the intestinal difficulties caused by excessive caffeine quite well, but the nervous twitches and eye tics scared small children. I now drink herbal tea, which is calming, but not necessarily inspirational.
The garden is the only solution left. I realize I haven’t weeded the garden in weeks because Penelope had demanded a lot of attention. Selfish girl. No wonder I had to leave her in midsentence like that. It was no less than she deserved.
I put on my gardening gloves and pick up a trowel. Ah! This is the life. Growing my vegetables, participles wouldn’t dangle. Never again, will I, ever, have to worry, about, commas, running amok, among my, sentences. I won’t have to ponder the nature of the gerund, which is alarmingly similar to a psychological disorder.
“I’m tired of fumbling for that switch. Just let me turn it on, will you?” Penelope suggests in my head. She sounds annoyed.
That might work! I toss down the -uh, digging utensil, tear off my gloves and hurry back to the computer. The cursor is still flashing on, off, on, off. I type, “…turned it on.”
Cured! My writing disorder is cleared up! At least, until the next sentence. Then Penelope just stands there in the bedroom. The cursor flashes on, off, on, off. I sigh and head back to the garden.
Suggestions for the Writer
Be Different -- Write in different places, at different times, and with different writing instruments.
Freewrite - Choose one sentence in a paragraph and write a paragraph about it. Then choose one sentence from that paragraph and do it again.
Cluster - Choose key words and ideas; then write associated ideas and words in clusters around them. This process often forms new ideas.
Be flexible -- Be willing to throw out sections of text that are causing problems or just don't work.
Follow a routine -- Follow a routine to get into the writing mood. Try activities like wearing comfortable clothing, using a certain pen, or listening to a particular CD or type of music.
Move -- Physically move around, stretch, or walk.
Take a break -- Get a snack or drink, talk to someone, or just relax for five minutes before starting to write again.
Concentrate Focus on a different section or aspect of your paper. This sometimes leads to new insights in problem areas, while allowing you to get work done on another section.
Re-read -- Read a print draft of the paper and jot down ideas while reading.
Relax! -- The more you worry, the harder it gets to think clearly.
From St. Cloud State LEO