I usually cruise along, feeling inspired, laughing at my own clever wit or admiring a certain turn of phrase. Not today. It’s been another half-hour since I typed the words “no lie.” No lie.
Other than dribbling out words at the rate of two an hour, I’ve been sitting here, munching on a bag of baby carrots, sighing and staring at the screen. I think this is what they call a serious case of writer’s block. Okay, not a serious case. I’ve heard of some writers that can’t write for years. Now that’s serious. But I don’t get that. How can you call yourself a writer if you don’t write?
More likely, I’m suffering from a temporary inability to deal with the task at hand. And I’m in good company. While most writers usually experience being blocked at one point or other, even famous folks like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Virginia Woolf were known to have felt their genius run dry at times. (Of course, they were also alcoholic, depressed or suicidal, but that often comes with the territory. I’m probably way too happy to be truly great.)
Although it’s a little insulting, the following advice by author Phillip Pullman made me laugh and rang true. I’m going to start thinking of writing as my full-time job. And since I’m having a hard time thinking of my own words, his will have to do. Besides, it’s the weekend. And I don’t work weekends.
“Writer’s block…a lot of howling nonsense would be avoided if, in every sentence containing the word WRITER, that word was taken out and the word PLUMBER substituted; and the result examined for the sense it makes. Do plumbers get plumber’s block? What would you think of a plumber who used that as an excuse not to do any work that day?
The fact is that writing is hard work, and sometimes you don’t want to do it, and you can’t think of what to write next, and you’re fed up with the whole damn business. Do you think plumbers don’t feel like that about their work from time to time? Of course there will be days when the stuff is not flowing freely. What you do then is MAKE IT UP.
Writer’s block is a condition that affects amateurs and people who aren’t serious about writing (ouch.) So is the opposite, namely inspiration, which amateurs are also very fond of. Putting it another way: a professional writer is someone who writes just as well when they’re not inspired as when they are.”