Okay, so I’ve been up since 0400. It’s been a heck of a day. A long day. My eyes are burning. My body is tired. And my mind is… in that sleep deprived euphoric–ohmiword, look! It’s an epiphany!–mental stage. You know the one I’m talking about. Where everything you think of is deep and meaningful and… Einstein-like. Or Freudian-like, as the case may be. In other words, the perfect mood for pure, undiluted, writer’s psychobabble.
First on the psychobabble rant is writer’s block.
I do not like that catch phrase. I mean, I get it and I understand what writer’s block is intended to mean, but… is it really a block that is owned by a writer? Yeah, I know. There are a lot of people who don’t believe in writer’s block. They have stated that writer’s block is an excuse. An excuse that people (who wannabe writers but are too lazy to put in the hard work…) use to generate sympathy. Okay, maybe they didn’t express it just like that, but that’s the way that I read it and this is my blog so get over it.
But back to the rant… I agree that a lot of people out there aren’t motivated enough to push through the hard stuff and do the work. I agree that there are a lot of hard working writers out there who do push through the hard stuff and make the words flow. I also agree that there are people out there who are blocked due to an internal event… like a fear. Like fear of success. I also agree that there are writer folks out there who are blocked due to an external event… like over extending themselves, lack of project/time management, and/or writing at the wrong time of the day.
But I have to say that in all my web searches about writer’s block, I have YET to find someone who talks about writer’s block as a part of the writer’s personal writing process.
And that really grates on my last nerve. (Yep, you guessed it, I’m a little irritated by this.) And because I’m a wee bit irked, I’m gonna share a little story with y’all.
Anyone ever referred to their manuscript as ‘my baby’? Or read it somewhere? Anyone ever heard the analogy that writing a story is like giving birth? If you haven’t, then you have now. Congratulations and welcome to the insanity.
So this little embryo of a story you’ve got incubates in the brain, then grows and grows, until it’s finally showing (ohmiword, I have an outline/plot and it has GMC! I totally rock! Sweet!), and one day after you’ve mastered morning sickness (oh god, why am I getting up at 0400 to write for 1.5 hours before going to work?), mood swings (I hate this idea!/I love this idea! I suck! I’m the best writer ever!), healthy eating habits (Are chocolate covered strawberries or raisins considered a dessert or a daily fruit serving? Aw, screw it, it’ll count as both), ensuring that your family walks on eggshells around you when you’re in ‘the mood” (do I really need to give an example for this one? Okay, fine. Just think of any request you’ve ever received while in the mood for: clean clothes/laundry, home cooked meals that require more than 10 minutes in the kitchen, and any form of housework)… after all that… something shifts inside you and your story is ready to come out.
Congratulations! You’re ready to give birth to your story.
Ah yes, the birthing process. They call it labor for good reason. Because it is. It’s a labor of love. It’s a labor of love that is as natural as… blah, blah, blah, insert scream here, insert meaningful threat to the turkey (baster) that implanted the seed that brought on the most painful event of your life… you want drugs/alcohol/chocolate, you want anything that will put you out of your misery, you want that baby out of you and you want it NOW!
At this point during the labor process, you, as the birth parent of this ‘baby of yours’, may fall into one of a dozen or so categories. Categories such as… easy birth (I hardly felt a thing at all—I pushed twice and then I was done—it just flowed out of me); OR medium easy birth (it took forever, but after pushing for
For the sake of this psychobabble-E rant, let’s propose that you fall into the last category. The near death experience writer’s block. Think about that for a minute. Think about the spiritual journey that a writer in this category walks during those painful labor moments. Think back to all those TV shows you watched that interviewed people about their near death experiences. Think back to the lessons that they said they learned. The new outlooks on life they acquired as a result of this epiphany like moment. Did it put their life into perspective for them? Did it make them better people? Did they learn something from it? Was it the destined path this or that person was supposed experience? Why did it occur? Why do they say no pain-no gain? Could it possibly be that the near death experience category is a natural process for one out of a million writers?
I think so. I think that for some writers the act of being blocked can be a natural part of their writing process. I think it can be their own defense mechanisms (stemming from body, mind, soul, intuition, etc) that stop them from completing the labor process. I also believe that when this sort of blockage/thwarting/purgatory/hellish event occurs, that the best thing for the writer to do is to journal about it. Interview yourself. Interview your inner writer. Notice I didn’t say interview your characters. I said, interview yourself.
Ask yourself simple questions like… how do I feel about writing? Writing this story? Writing in this journal? How do I feel about myself as a writer? What are the things I dislike about writing? What are the things I enjoy about it? What do I love about it? What do I like or hate about this particular story/idea/character? What do I like about them? Am I angry at myself? Do I love my inner writer? Do I love myself? Is this really the career of my heart? Do I really want to get into this cut throat business that eats people/careers up and spits them out?
You’re already awesome at interviewing characters… but can you interview yourself?
One final thought before I head back to the temple for the Thursday night free for all that the God Eros has going on… you are your best writer’s toolbox and reference library. When you interview yourself, you are basically cataloguing your knowledge and locating those emotions that you can use to enhance your stories.
Until next time… and the next installment in the Tome O’Psychobabble.