Writer's Block: Defeating the Madness
Like many writers, I have several projects in the works while I am finishing one. Non-writers would think having so many topics already begun makes it easier to complete one after the other, but that just isn't how it goes. Sure, sometimes it does help if your mind goes in different directions at once, but it never promises the completion of one.
This dilemma of either writing badly or not writing at all is common among writers. Is it best to keep chipping away until it either drives you insane or becomes a masterpiece, or is it best to just let it sit there until the entire idea has escaped your consciousness, so you never have to deal with potential ruin?
Walking usually fixes my writer's block. In my last few semesters of college, I would wonder how to come up with ideas for my nonfiction, fiction, play-writing, and poetry classes, since I hadn't done any creative writing on my own in years, but once I took a walk...BAM...problem solved!
In the film Music and Lyrics, Sophie (Drew Barrymore) suggests to Alex (Hugh Grant) that they take a walk when she hits a creative wall, and it works. When they're discussing their personal lives, a line for a song comes to her mind. Like most writers will admit, ideas for current projects have a tendency of showing themselves once our minds are preoccupied with something entirely unrelated. So, when we are the most stressed that we'll never finish a piece of writing, that's when it's best to get away from it to allow the creativity to come to us.
Sophie: Let's go for a walk
Alex: A walk? What, now?
Sophie: Yeah, out on the streets, you see things, and you know, hear things, and eat things. It all sort of unlocks your mind.
The night before the wedding, in Sex and the City the movie, Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) receives a call from Big (Chris Noth) explaining that he can't seem to write his vows because of his anxieties about the marriage. In the series, Sex and the City, Carrie does experience some writer's block of her own, but she is never dishing out advice. To help her fiancé, she tells him the benefits of sleeping on it. This can be another helpful technique when at the end of one's rope. Sometimes, when we overwork our minds, we are no longer at our fullest potential. The only solution, then, is rest!
Carrie:...I've found, as a professional writer, that you should stop thinking about it so much, and go to bed, and in the morning...
Big: You'll know what to do.
In the film Howl, an adaptation of the poem by Allen Ginsberg (James Franco) of the same name, he talks about the writing process during an interview. What freed his mind when writing "Howl" was assuming it wouldn't be published. There it is, isn't it? Is it possible that the fear of wondering what others will think of the finished piece is what keeps us from actually tackling the idea until it's complete? It could be! The trick is ignoring that critic in our minds.
Allen Ginsberg: The beginning of the fear for me was what would my father think of something that I would write. At the time, writing "Howl," I assumed when writing it was not something that would be published because I wouldn't want my daddy to see what was in there.
A friend of mine on here, Bill (billybuc) just wrote an article out of a response to a question I asked him about voice. I strongly urge any readers who do not already know him to please read his articles. They are intelligent, funny, and friendly. I never get tired of his voice; however, I worry my own voice is becoming dull and/or annoying, to me. He gave some great advice, to me and his other readers. Part of it was to stop judging ourselves. As much as this article is about writer's block, it is also about the fear of the finished product. That can be, after all, the very reason the writer's block exists. From reading comments on that particular article, I saw many writers feel this anxiety. So, perhaps just knowing all writers do go through this will alleviate that fear.
The fear of what others will think, in terms of writing or just who we are as individuals, reminds me of a line from the film The Libertine, about the historical figure John Wilmot (Johnny Depp) aka Rochester, who wrote a satirical play about King Charles II (John Malkovich). Talk about writing fearlessly! At that part in the film, Wilmot is telling an unpopular actress, Elizabeth Barry (Samantha Morton), that she needs to learn not to consider what others think because it says more about them than it does about her. According to Wilmot, those who judge are either too stupid to understand you or too jealous to admit that you intimate them:
Rochester: Mrs. Barry, you must acquire the trick of ignoring those who do not like you. In my experience, those who do not like you fall into two categories: The stupid and the envious. The stupid will like you in five years time. The envious, never.
When necessary, I say that line to myself. If you have not seen the film, I highly recommend it.
Remember, ultimately, writing is about revising: cutting, moving, adding, and so on. First drafts are rarely, if ever, the finished product. That's true for any type of writing: story, article, essay, instructional, music, and others. In fact, even when the words are flowing effortlessly, it would be foolish not to proofread, anyway, right? So, if you write a jumbled mess, at least you have somewhere to go from there. The real beauty comes from what you haven't thought of while you're writing, or how you can put the pieces you created together for a beautiful delivery.
Which technique do you use the most?
Take a break. Read, watch, listen to people who inspire you. Get out of your own mind. Allow who ever inspires you to enter your mind, and let them take you on a journey. You'll probably find yourself taking the wheel to show them your own journey.
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