Is writer’s block to be overcome or to be endured? It’s a question I found myself pondering recently as I stared at a blank page that remained blank for much longer than I would have preferred. I spent about three hours prior to writing this blog post in a state of unrelenting boredom and in the grip of a vicious case of writer’s block, so much so that I was scrawling the words “You can’t force it!” over and over again on a piece of scrap paper. Eventually, that scrawling led to this blog post (it wasn’t what I was attempting to write) but, boy, it was torturous and I may have simply been better off doing something completely unrelated to writing as a more effective use of my time.
Because writing cannot be forced – or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that when it is the results are often so poor that you may as well not have bothered in the first place. Of course, I can’t speak for anyone except myself. But I like to think of writer’s block as my mind’s way of telling me that either:
1) I need a break, or
2) Whatever it is I’m writing, it’s not working and I need to stop and do some thinking about the writing (which leads back to point 1).
I think about my writing a lot, perhaps even more than I would like – those nights when I’m lying in bed and pondering plots and character motivation can be useful but sometimes I wish there was a switch to turn it off so I could just go to sleep!
In between finishing my debut novel, Enemies Closer, and publishing it, a period of about four years, I had an extended case of writer’s block. I didn’t write a single thing. There were a couple of main reasons. I had started a new second job and I was spending a lot of time doing it as well as a lot of time thinking about how I could do it better. But perhaps the more significant reason was that I didn’t know how to get Enemies Closer published. My Friday Pitch submission to Allen & Unwin, the only publishing company at the time accepting unsolicited manuscripts (to my knowledge), never received a reply and I was disheartened by my lack of knowledge about what to do after the process of actually writing the book.
I didn’t spend four years being disheartened but I did spend four years focusing on my second job career because it was as good a distraction as any other. As I’m sure many will understand, my second job is the one that pays the bills, while writing will always be my first job. Hopefully, the first job and the second job will combine spectacularly one day to make all my dreams – everybody’s dreams, I suppose – come true; a job I enjoy that pays the bills but that I don’t do primarily for the money.
I’ve gotten off topic – but that’s kind of the point. Because the only solution to writer’s block that I’ve found will work is to stop trying to force the writing to happen.