by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Regarding the title of today's post? That is the question. And it's a good day to ask a question like that since April 23 is the date of William Shakespeare's death and quite possibly his birth.
One of the topics we're discussing this cycle at GBC is writer's block.
I'll confess something right up front and can only hope no one will hate me for it: I've never had writer's block. I've felt sluggish about projects from time to time. I've become bored (rarely) or otherwise disenchanted (occasionally) and I've wondered what the point of it all is (once in a blue moon). But I've never been blocked, which for our purposes here we'll define as an inability to put words on the page for an extended period of time.
I'm a writer. It's who I am. It's how I make my living, meager as that may be some years. For me, not to write is the same as if, when I was an independent bookseller, I said: "I can't sell books today"; or when I was a window washer, "Nope, I'm afraid those windows must remain spotty today because I just can't do it." When it's your job, you may not always feel like doing it, but still you show up and do the job.
Those times when I do feel sluggish or go stale on a project, I have two - for me - sure-fire ways of dealing with it: 1) spend the day working on some other writing entirely - a nonfiction essay, a blog post, even a really well-crafted email - so I maintain confidence in my ability to put words, good and well-chosen words, on the page in an effective manner; or 2) jump ahead in the story and write a scene I am excited about writing, one I've been dying to write, while vowing to come back later to the problem scene. Whichever way I choose, I always feel refreshed the next day. The trick is to always be moving forward, in some way and however small the step, toward your goal.
Over at Grub Street Daily, there's a terrific interview with Alexander Chee, which you can find here. One of the things I love about it is what Alexander has to say about needing stamina to go along with talent, because without the stamina, your talent won't get you where you want to go. After being led to the interview by a link on Twitter, I tweeted to GSD and Alexander that I would add to that the need for a writer to have resilience (of course, I managed to do it using typos galore, compromising the otherwise brilliance of my obvious resilience).
Resilience is a big deal to me. It's the ability to show up as a writer, sometimes under spectacularly adverse circumstances, and do the work.
One last thing before I go: Over the years I've been doing this, I've come across the occasional person - OK, more than occasional, but I know none of you are Those People! - who has bought into the idea and convinced themselves that writers are artists (which is true) and if a writer is a true artist, that writer must be tortured, a tortured artiste (which is false). Those People work themselves into states about all manner of things and before you know it, they've got a block to go along with it.
Well, the truth is, no one has to be a tortured artist. You can choose to be a happy one - or at least a resilient one! - and you can choose to reject and push aside that block.
And that's all I've got!
Now it's your turn: Have you ever been blocked? How do you deal with writing stumbles or blocks? And finally, am I getting on your nerves yet with my disgusting happy-pappy-sappy resilient talk?
Be well. Don't forget to write.
Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the author of 24 books for adults, teens and childrens. Her most recent novels for adults are The Bro-Magnet and Z: A Novel and she'd be estatic if you bought one, or both even ($2.99 each; a steal!), but she'll never know if you don't and thus won't be able to hold it against you.