I’ve never had it, never believed in it, and according to her very brilliant book, the same goes for the very brilliant Ann Patchett.
What I have had (and what I believe everyone who has “writer’s block” is actually suffering from) is a healthy dose of fear and procrastination. Having sat down at your desk, arranged your pens and picked your playlist, you then stare at the screen and wait for something wonderful to happen.
And you wait…
Okay, that feels like writer’s block, but it isn’t. That’s fear; fear that what you write is going to be a rubbish, and the longer you sit staring at your screen, the worse the feeling gets, until you suddenly remember that the dishes are piling up (you have a dishwasher) or the carpets need vacuuming (you have a cleaner) or that the car is still covered in bird poo (you don’t have a car).
That’s procrastination, and it’s usually followed by guilt, which is usually followed by a doughnut, and then more guilt.
Okay, so back to the writing desk. The junk you’re so worried about writing? Well…write it. All of it. Just bang it out as fast as you can, and when you’re done, just keep going. Anything that comes into your head: the odd bit of flowery prose, a poetic shopping list, what you saw when you stood at the summit of a mountain. Anything that gets the right side of your brain firing. I mean, you wouldn’t start a six-mile run without warming up first, would you?
Now after about ten minutes of stream-of-consciousness type hammering, I usually find myself drifting back to the story I was supposed to be writing, but sometimes I don’t. Don’t get hung up on the idea that you have to work day in day out on the same piece. Take a break if you want to; write something else. The important thing is that you write every day.
But what do you do with all that crap you’ve written during your warm-up? Well, I tend to keep it. Most of it is exactly that – crap, so I probably won’t look at it again, but if I happen to read it through again, I might find the occasional phrase or sentence that I can rework into something halfway decent.
Or sometimes I just post the whole thing as a blog entry… 🙂