A Perspective on Writer's Block

It’s nothing short of infuriating!  It does no less than put your soul in a bench vice!  It makes you want to throw up your hands, spew a string of profanities that would make Gordon Ramsey blush and abandon this maddening thing called writing!!  It’s an energy stealing, soul sucking, universe imploding ailment called writer’s block and it is the equivalent of writer’s erectile dysfunction.

You sit down to your work, be it on a computer, typewriter or a pencil and paper.  Your desire to write bursting at the seams of your soul to explode forth and cover the screen or page with all the wondrous ideas your brains’ firing synapses can muster.  All of creation is waiting with bated breath to read the golden nuggets spilling forth from your fingertips!

In my case, I put my headphones on, crank up the music, poise my fingers over the keys and…

Nothing!

Not a @(^$!#% word!

There’s no known cure for Writer’s Block and it is a disease that plagues writer’s everywhere at one time or another.  The bulk of this article will deal with my perspective on Writer’s Block and is, by no means, a definitive all encompassing look at this infuriating phenomenon.   The intent is to share one writer’s battle and frustration with it and to, hopefully, let other writer’s know that if they suffer from this ailment that they are not alone.  At the very best I hope that maybe, just maybe, someone gets something useful from my ranting about my arch nemesis in the writing realm.

I began writing at the age of 13 as a way to gain some semblance of control over a very violent and explosive temper.  I have battled anger issues my entire life and I know that I will continue to battle them for the rest of my life.  Fighting anger as powerful as mine is not something you simply accomplish and move on.  It is very much like conquering an addiction.  It’s a day by day, week by week, year by year struggle and it will follow you from now on.  Writing was my escape, my oasis, my brief fleeting holiday from the constant struggle to keep the beast at bay.

One day I was standing in the courtyard of my school and I was furious.  I don’t remember what had angered me and, in the overall scope of things it really doesn’t matter, but I was furious.  I’m talking turning green and ruining my clothes furious.  At 13 I was ill-equipped to deal with such strong emotions so I lashed out in the only way I knew how.  I punched one of the brick columns that surrounded our courtyard. 

Fast forward to me sitting in the nurses’ station with an ice pack on my horribly swollen hand.  I’m still furious, even more so now.  Not only had I not gotten any relief from the first thing that had angered me, but I was now embarrassed for having very nearly broken my hand and feeling quite stupid.

Enter Ms. Joynelle Pearson and the first pivotal moment in my life.

Ms. Pearson was that one teacher for me.  The one that made a difference.  The one that saw more in me than anyone else…myself included.  She walked into the nurses’ station and saw me sitting there with the ice pack on my hand and looking very much like I was ready to become a clock tower sniper.  She was very much aware of my temper and had corrected me on numerous occasions about it.  She walked over, lifted the ice pack and shook her head at the swollen, discolored state of my right hand.  She looked at me with a mixture of reproach, sympathy and affection and shook her head again, “Do you feel better?”

“No ma’am!” I mumbled (back in those days you still used manners even if you were pissed off).

“Have you ever considered writing short stories about whatever angered you?” she asked.

“No ma’am!” I snipped in reply.

“You should try it.  It will certainly be less painful than hitting brick columns,” she said as she lowered the ice pack back over my hand, patted me on the shoulder and walked away, still shaking her head.

As soon as my hand would allow, I took up pencil and paper and wrote a short story about whom and what had angered me.  It was a short, violent, bloody, gut wrenching, vomit producing story.  It was only two or three pages long and it is forever lost in the smoky wisps of time, but it worked.  Once it was written, the anger was far less and easily manageable even by a 13 year old.  Very soon I was writing daily, sometimes two or three stories a day.  They were short, violent and very messy, but they worked wonders for helping me keep my temper under something that remotely resembled control. 

Now don’t get the idea that all I had to do was grab a pencil and paper and my temper was magically dissipated.  No such luck.  A temper that lies that close to the surface is never truly under control.  Writing was simply a tool I used to distract the anger long enough for me to keep it from breaking free and forcing me to do something truly stupid…some of the time anyway.

Slowly I began to find writing very relaxing.  It was fascinating for me to lose myself in a world of my own creation.  In that place I ruled!  People did what I said.  Events unfolded as I decreed.  No one angered me, no one pushed me, no one DARED cross me.  Then it became something much more substantial than that.  I expanded on story lines, developed fictional characters until they seemed as real and actual people and guiding them down a story line of my design.  In short:  I found that I LOVED to write and I dove head first into it with all abandon.

For years I enjoyed writing with glee.  I was not hindered by anything.  There was no shortage of story ideas or characters to immerse in these ideas.  Writer’s Block?  What was that?  I’d heard of it, but I’d never encountered it and I seriously doubted I ever would.

Ah the ignorant, blissful foolishness of youth!

As I approached the age of 35 I had written a western, a detective novel, a thriller, a science fiction story and even a Star Trek novel featuring the original series meeting the next generation crew.  None of these stories were ever published and most of them had been lost in a dorm room fire while I was at college.  Not even the tragedy of losing the bulk of my work was enough to spawn the malignant cells of Writer’s Block within me.  I wrote away, oblivious to the blight several of my writer friends were suffering from.  They would complain of the ailment and I would give them my most heart-felt condolences before turning to my current work in progress and lose myself in it for hours at a time.

Then came another pivotal moment of my life.  Actually there were several events that transpired in this time frame and they all altered the flow of my life forever.  I won’t go into the details of these events here because they aren’t the focus of this article aside from spawning another ailment that I have battled for years:  depression.

Depression turned out to be the gateway through which Writer’s Block would find its way into my life.  I had never been at a loss for what to write, especially at this stage of my writing career since I had begun my first foray into the Fantasy genre with The Devenshire Chronicles.  I had never written anything that so absolutely captured my imagination as did Daimion Devenshire, his companions and their story.  This story had caused hour upon hour upon hour of endless writing.  There were times my fingers would cramp because I couldn’t type fast enough to get the ideas out of my head.  The ideas would pile up inside my head like a giant traffic jam with only a bicycle sized lane for the ideas to exit the freeway of my rapidly racing thoughts.

Then one day I sat down at my computer, brought up the book file, cranked up my tunes and got ready to lose myself in Devenshire’s world for a while.  At this point in my life it was the only place I could go that didn’t remind me of the shattered, burnt, ruined fragments that my life had become.  I poised my fingers over the keys, took a deep breath and opened myself up for the flow of ideas.

Nothing came.

I typed a few sentences and they were horrible.  They were disjointed sloppy things that felt as though they came from someone else.  They were the kinds of offerings that had they been food offered to Gordon Ramsey they would send the chef into a tirade that would result in him throwing my offering into the trash can, kicking said trash can and calling me a *bleeping* donkey!

I back spaced the offending trash out of existence and tried again.  Again what came out was horrible.  So I found a different song, took a moment to collect myself and launched again only to be rewarded with halting, staggering, disjointed strings of words that resulted in something I’m even ashamed to admit I was capable of producing.  Garden slugs could produce better quality work than I was puking up.

What the hell is this?

This can’t be what I think it is!

Could it?

Could I have finally been infected with *gasp* Writer’s Block?

Yes!  I was and it has been with me ever since.  There are times I can write with ease and crank out chapters a day.  There are also periods of days, weeks and sometimes months, which I can’t produce a single solitary word.  Only someone who is passionate about writing can understand what an empty, horrible, terrifying feeling it is to sit down to your favorite activity and not have anything come out.  Like I said in the beginning of this article, it is very much like erectile dysfunction.  I apologize to the ladies reading this blog for not having something similar to compare it to for you.  I suppose it would be something like knowing there was a giant bowl of chocolate in the fridge and you pull on the door handle only to discover a giant chain complete with indestructible lock, has been wrapped around the refrigerator multiple times and in multiple directions.

In any case Writer’s Block and I have fought each other tooth and nail for years.  Even while writing this blog I find myself fighting it.  There are many tools I have developed over the years to help me combat it.  Music has always been my best weapon against this monster.  I have an extensive library of songs that has inspired me in the past and I am constantly on the lookout for new music that stirs the embers of my craft and ignites a spark that catches fire to my imagination.

Recently I have discovered music on YouTube.  In the search bar type in Epic Music and you’ll find clips of music lasting anywhere from an hour up to 10 hours.  I have found this music very useful in beating back Writer’s Block long enough for me to crank out some quality work…or at least work that can be turned into quality with a little effort.

Yet for all of the tricks I find to offset the crippling effects of Writer’s Block I have yet to write like I used to pre-Writer’s Block.  I used to get so lost in my writing that I was totally oblivious to my surroundings.  I would emerge from the hours of writing feeling exhausted and exhilarated at the same time.  Like a really good work out or REALLY great sex!  I miss those days.  There are times I would give almost anything to lose myself in my writing again, to dive into the realms I’ve created and not notice what is going on around me in the real world.  While I have not had a writing spree like that in years, I have never given up the hope that someday, somehow I will experience that again.

My wife, Renee, is also instrumental in helping me battle the monster that tries to steal my craft away from me.  She will see me struggling with it and will do her best to comfort me.  Through her I have learned another way to deal with Writer’s Block.  She will rub my shoulders, kiss me on the cheek and say, “Give it a rest baby.  Don’t force it.  Let it come naturally,”  She’s right.  You can’t sit there and try to force your work through Writer’s Block.  All that will come out is junk and not worth my talent.

If I can give only one word of advice to all of the writer’s reading this, that would be it.  Don’t fight it.  To continue to struggle against the demon will only result in frustration and any work you do manage to get out will be far below your level of talent.  Accept that this moment or this day is not your day to write.  Go find something else to do.  I have found the world of 3D and began creating character portraits for my Fantasy series, The Devenshire Chronicles.  I also have begun creating book trailers for my books and have dug into promoting the first book of The Devenshire Chronicles, “The Stones of Andarus” which I published in October of 2012.  Find something connected to your passion that allows you to create without actually writing.  This blog is another tool I have found that allows me to fight back against Writer’s Block and it inspires me.

The biggest thing I have found is not to panic.  Don’t let the frustration claim you, regardless of how hard that is to adhere to.  I have found myself, at times, wondering if I would ever write again.  The frustration from FINALLY publishing my first book only to be crippled in the writing of the second book by a serious bout of Writer’s Block was incredible.  There have been several times in the past few months that I’ve seriously considered pulling “The Stones of Andarus” out of publication and abandoning this thing called writing.  But I haven’t and I won’t!  Writing has seen me through some of the darkest times of my life and has been the one constant in the ever swirling waters of the river of my life.  I will never give up on it and you shouldn’t either.  I have come to look at Writer’s Block as your mind’s way of making you take a break from writing your stories so your creative batteries can recharge.  Whether that’s true or not doesn’t matter.  It’s how I look at it and that perspective helps me deal with the times that my muse fails me.

Never give up!  You have a talent and a calling and you can’t abandon it for anything.  All of the worlds and characters you have created are waiting for you to come back and direct them on through the adventures awaiting them.  Whether you write again today or it’s a year from now…you will write again and in that tiny fragment of hope is the most powerful weapon there is against that demon that stalks our creativity like a nightmare hinging on the fringes of our waking moments.

I belong to a group on Facebook for first time authors and the banner for the page says “You should be writing!”   Yes you should, so Writer’s Block be damned and get to it!

…and good luck!

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