Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why I Don't Get Writer's Block OR Just Keep Writing

by Ernessa T. Carter

At least once a year I talk about having been called to writing as a curse. Most of the time I regard doing what I do for a living as a blessing, but every so once in a while, I feel the need to gnash my teeth and rend my clothes over my "terrible fate" in the form of a blog post.

That time of the year is now. That post is this one. 

Like a few of the other writers who have covered writer's block for this topic cycle on "Girlfriends Book Club," I have never truly come down with it. I have often really not wanted to write, but I have never been blocked per se.

Sadly, I always have something I could be writing, some story nagging at the back of my head, some voice just ridiculously insisting on being heard. This often makes life difficult. For example, I haven't taken a writing-free vacation since my very early twenties. I often have trouble paying attention when I'm supposed to, because I'm working out knotty story problems. Even when I'm in a rush, I'm subject to what I call "sudden toilet and shower thrall." This is when a story idea or plot point comes on so strong that it freezes you in place anywhere from five to twenty minutes while it downloads. Being a writer can get like stupid-weird. 

So I say if you're able to not write for a long period of time, think about just going with it. You're lucky! I consider real writing passion more of an affliction than anything, mainly because I cannot stop writing. If I try, I get wildly depressed or completely despondent or ridiculously ragey or all three. In any case, it's not pretty. Like at all.

In fact, if I don't write for over 72 hours, I often find myself the subject of a gentle intervention from my husband. You know how some guys ask if their girlfriend or wife is on her period when she's being "crazy?" My husband says things like, "Hey, honey, when's the last time you wrote?" or "Do you think you might be feeling this way because you haven't been writing?" (Spoiler Alert: It almost always is.) Sometimes he volunteers to take care of our daughter while I go work on my book. And he even points out good places for me to write when we're on our family vacations. 

"Just keep writing," he says when I call him in a frantic state, insisting that I can't do this anymore and that I'm going to get a cubicle job in marketing and leave this writing junk behind or better yet, fully dedicate myself to our daughter's upbringing. "You can't do that, honey. You'd go crazy and that wouldn't be good for you or her."

So here's what I think when I hear someone is suffering from writer's block. Good! Can you keep it going? Maybe get a regular job with regular hours that will be somewhat satisfying and that you can turn off when you're on the freaking toilet? If so, that's awesome. 

And I'm so jealous. 

However, if you're like me and your case of writer's block is sending you off the deep end, I'll co-sign on my husband's advice: Just keep writing. Yeah, seriously. Write poorly. Write blog posts. Write anything  at all. Just keep writing. It might be the only thing that keeps you sane. 

Photo Credit:  photosteve101


18 comments:

  1. Fabulous, Ernessa, and so true. Sometimes I think life would be simpler - and with better health insurance! - if I could do something other than what I do.

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    1. Yes, life would certainly be simpler. And it does make me wonder how many people would quit their jobs and pursue writing full-time if Obamacare went through. :)

      On the other hand, a friend who was going through a tough time and I were talking the other month, and we were like, "How do people who don't write deal with troubled times. It must be so tough for them." We were really feeling sorry for people who have to deal with pain in non-writing ways.

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  2. Writer's block? Does it matter, I ask, unless a writer is on a deadline? Unless the stories don't come, the characters don't cooperate, the plot . . . .
    Glad to know that you're spared all of that. The busy mind is truly a gift, especially, if it results in lovely stories like yours.

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    1. Oh, that's a whole other article. Sometimes the worse part of being a fiction writer is not ever really being on deadline. We should do a cycle for "How do you sustain passion through out a project."

      Though, yes, my characters like to turn on me big time. I'll work so hard on the outline, only to have them do whatever they want. Ungrateful brats!

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  3. Ah, you're right Ernessa. The trouble with writer's block is not that the nattering in our heads has stopped. It's just that we're unable to get that blessed relief that comes with putting words on the page. I try to tell myself, just 'one bad page a day.' My son is graduating from college and after I read his thesis I said, "God forbid you ever take on this profession. But you've got the gift." The one that keeps on giving, but not in the Golden Goose kind of way. More like an itch that can't be scratched.

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    1. My daughter is only two and I send up continuous prayers for her not to inherent her parents' artistic gifts. Both her grandmothers were accountants, and we have a few engineers in the family. I can only hope. But on the other hand, if she does have "the curse," at least I'll know how to fully support her in her endeavors.

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  4. This was so funny. Love the toilet and shower thrall.
    It's a disease, I swear. :)

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  5. Ernessa, I love this post! I think I share your affliction! Whenever I finish with a deadline and say to my hubby, "Oh, good, maybe now I can take a few weeks off," he laughs. "You won't last that long," he tells me. And, sure enough, he's right. I can't stay away from the keyboard for long. :-)

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    1. Hahaha! I have never ever said that. My husband would faint if I said that or ask me if I had a stroke. In all fairness, though, he's the one that imposed the 72 hour rule and it changed my life. I got so much more done and my emotions stayed level.

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  6. I hear you, Ernessa, and I have to agree. I too don't ever suffer writer's block. I'm always conniving something! Great and witty post!!

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    1. Thanks Laura! I love conniving as a verb. Will steal!

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  7. Ernessa,
    Thank you for writing this post! I loved it... It made me laugh aloud so many times because, yes, it's incredibly inconvenient to HAVE to keep doing this, but it's true. We just do. I don't even remember how to take a real day off from writing anymore. Definitely more like a curse than a blessing sometimes :).

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    1. I do often wonder what it's like to not have your sanity connected to your career. Thanks for the comment!

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  8. Ernessa
    We have this exact same conversation at my house. The words 'when was the last time you wrote?' always follow any and all emotional outbursts on my part. I often feel like a crazy person--just this morning I stood in the shower an extra 10 minutes while the first scene of a new book ran through my head--of course I am in the process of editing my current book which at this point I loathe--loathe--and it isn't the book's fault it is just part of my process. Thank you for the blog. So nice to feel part of a group who understands and shares my stupid-weird curse/blessing.
    xoMaggie

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  9. This comment made my day. I do wonder how people managed to be writers before the internet. My crazy butt needs the company!

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  10. Even when I'm not pounding out letters on my laptop, I'm composing in my head, which can sometimes be so annoying when all I want to do is buy groceries and not wonder why the guy in the suit is buying diapers and a bottle of wine, and I wonder if his wife would look like the chick behind me dressed in yoga clothes who's so busy texting, she doesn;t push her buggy forward....

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    1. I'm like this at grocery stores, too. But at least it makes running errands way more interesting. It especially comes in handy while waiting in lines.

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