One of the challenges that writers may encounter is Writer’s Block, or the big bad WB as I called it in an earlier blog, to which I’m no exception.
I’ve compiled a short list of 5 different psychological blockades that impede writing, bear in mind that these are from my own observations and experiences, and since a problem usually requires a solution, I’ve proposed those as well.
1. The Sisyphus Complex
No matter how many times you re-write your story, it always needs another rewrite – it will continue to have faults and it will continue to need fine-tuning. So just like Sisyphus, you are condemned to role a boulder up the hill and reach the top only to have it fall back down again, over and over and over.
You’re a writer not a computer and beauty lies in imperfection. If you wanted to be precise you would’ve become a scientist (and even they have their share of imprecision and imperfection). As Dr. Phil says, “Get real!” Get over it, it’s never going to be perfect, and it doesn’t have to be.
2. The I’m not Ready Yet Complex
This is my own pet WB complex. Also known as the scaredy-cat syndrome. This complex is the one where you don’t submit ‘cuz u think you ain’t no good, and maybe one day when you’re all grown up, you’ll be a real writer. In a mild case of this complex you simply might not submit anything you write because you think you’re just not ready. In a more extreme case you might spend days, months or years unable to face a blank page because you feel you’re not ready yet.
For the first type, just get on with it, you’ve already waited this long. For the second, if you can write a shopping list while thinking about the things you might need and are capable of jotting these down, then you can also write creatively. Give yourself a pat on the back the next time you go grocery shopping, you’ve done it, the grocery-shopping-list muse is always there to the rescue. Now, get your ass behind a computer (or a blank page, or PDA, or the same shopping list paper) and write. You can do it; you just proved it.
3. The Idle Complex
Life sometimes gets in the way of writing, it might be that at the end of the day, the last thing you want to do is sit down and write about your character’s life. The mere act of having to write one sentence seems like the biggest task in the world, so instead you sit down and surf the net/ watch TV/ or take a bubble bath. The next day you realize you’re an idiot because instead of writing, you spent your time being idle.
Life happens and time’s short but if J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter in 10 minute breaks and Stephen King wrote his first novels while working two jobs and Stephanie Meyer wrote her book in between her hectic life, and… well, you get the picture.
Have you ever considered that it might not be that you don’t have enough time, but that you might have too much time?
4. The Poor Me Complex
Also known as the “I’m-all-alone in this world complex”. This one is a tough one, because you probably haven’t written anything since someone critiqued your writing and you took it personally, maybe it was intentional (shame on him/her) but most likely it was unintentional. You can’t write and thus pine away in silence. There’s a saying in Spanish that fits’ this complex: “you are not a gold coin to be liked by everyone”, well neither is your writing.
A different side of this complex is not external but internal. It might be that it’s just yourself who thinks you suck as a writer. Perhaps you want to be the next Shakespeare but all you write is urban fantasy, and you hate urban fantasy, and snub every second of it.
Maybe you need a change of perspective: know thy audience and thy self, don’t discard popular writing – consider that both Shakespeare and Charles Dickens were popular writers in their time and became literary canons because they were popular. Your urban fantasy/ mystery / detective or whatever genre it is, your story might just become famous one day. If, on the other hand, you think you write too narrowly, only for a certain niche and you want to be popular, then think of William Blake (though he became famous posthumously). You can’t really get more ‘niche writing’ than that as he self published about 20 copies of his books. But he is now regarded as one of the best poets.
Don’t indulge in self-pity, leave that to your characters, narrative voice and whatever else you create.
5. The Grass-is-Greener-on-the-Other-Side-Complex
Someone else has already written what you wanted to say and it’s so much better than what you could’ve ever come up with. Why don’t you just give up? You’ll never be able to compete. And so you won’t, especially with that attitude.
But why compete anyway? Have you ever heard of genre? You can have several books on the same topic, theme, plot, characters, etc. Yours will be unique, because (drum-roll here): It is yours. Tada! It’ll never be the same as anyone else’s (well, only if you plagiarize, and that’s not writing that’s copy-pasting). Consider the theory of there being only 4 basic plots (or 7 or 9 or however many they have managed to classify, it’s still a small number). Everything is like everything else. That’s the beauty; it’s similar, but not the same. Go ahead and look at your neighbor and instead of saying that theirs is better, say: Hey! That’s like mine, let’s be friends.
P.D. My thanks to Suddenly Jamie’s blog posts on the WB on nhwn that got me thinking about writer’s block and the complexes thereof.