I want to talk for a second about how to deal with writer’s block – don’t. Writer’s block is a myth. It is a psych-out. I have been writing for half my life and I have taught enough writing workshops to honestly believe that writer’s block does not exist…unless you let it exist.
Let me qualify that a bit. There are times when I am blocked on a certain piece, certainly. But that doesn’t mean I can’t write. Writer’s block is fear, pure and simple. And it is easy to let that fear dominate you. But it is easy to avoid, too.
I write every day. Usually around 500 words. A lot more lately. There is never a day when I ‘can’t write’, because I don’t try to force it. If I am working on a novel and I feel jammed up, I write a story. If I can’t think of a story, I look around me…I start describing something. Usually, that leads to something. Sometimes it leads to 500 words of description. So what?
Another aspect to this is that you are hurting yourself if you demand the best all the time. Sometimes I write silly, ridiculous things. Sometimes I write more literary pieces. Sometimes I write out conversations. Sometimes I write songs. But there is never a time when I ‘can’t’ write – I refuse to accept that.
I mean, if you chopped off both my hands, it would be difficult. But as long as I have my hands and a pen or a computer, I can write. It may suck. It may make no sense. It may not be linear or have a plot. It may be a character study. It may be bad beat poetry, but I can write.
Writers can’t afford superstitions. I know a lot of people who get ‘writer’s block’, and it is always their choice. It is like Dumbo’s magic feather. Dumbo thought he needed the feather to fly. But it was all in his mind. Writers find all kinds of magic feathers. Certain times of the day…booze…a certain place. They give themselves escape routes…ways to rationalize that ‘they can’t write today’. Bullshit. Unless you suffer severe head trauma and suddenly become illiterate, you can write. It may not be the best thing you have ever written, but so what.
Once you accept the fact that writer’s block is a choice, you come to terms with the fact that there is no escape. You actively block all those escape routes. It builds confidence. And writing daily keeps you sharp. At any time of day, you can put my laptop in my hands and I can write you 500 words. I got my start in journalism and writer’s block is simply not permitted there. So, I don’t permit it now. You’re a writer. So write. And don’t let your brain get in the way. You asked for a guest blog. You got it. 500 words exactly. Well, now it is 500. Give or take.
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JD Mader is a writer and musician who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. He likes short, semi-hostile walks at sunset and motorcycles. His novel, Joe Café, is available on Kindle, and you can find many stories, essays, reviews, songs, and ramblings at his blog, Unemployed Imagination. His next novel, The Biker, will be available in the new year. His musical endeavors with The Flying Black Hats can be found on Last.fm and Bandcamp. You can also find him on Facebook and on twitter. Or you can try to find him in person, but, be aware, he startles easily.