Saturday, June 29, 2013

Musings About Writer's Block

This is an article about Writer's Block. What follows are only my own thoughts and opinions and are not meant to be taken as The Final Word on the matter. In fact, I'd like to invite others to share their POVs, ideas and experiences, tips and suggestions. The video included here is meant to start off the discussion.

I liked this video. There are a lot of differing opinions on what Writer’s Block is or isn’t. I even had someone write in response to an essay I wrote about my experience with it that Writer’s Block doesn’t exist. I think perhaps the issue is that The Block means different things to different people, or more specifically, that our understanding of its causes and effects differ from person to person. For me, the definition is simple: not being able to write due to lack of inspiration for an extended period of time despite our efforts to remove the block.

In the case of this video, I agree with most of what the speaker says, and I think his solution can work for most people if applied right. But--and this is my opinion--I think this solution might work best in this instance, when our self-critic is overstepping its bounds, rendering us immobile. In effect, not being able to ‘shut off’ that nagging, critical voice.

But what if the causes are more complicated than that? I couldn’t write for 10 years. That's right. 10. Long. Years. For someone who’d always escaped into the sanctuary of a story or a poem to express herself, not being able to access that creative force or being able to express it was like living a slow death. Only the problem wasn’t an overactive inner critic. It was Life. Stress. Our family was navigating some very rough waters at the time, and my soul, for lack of a better word, was squeezed so tight that creative expression was impossible. I’m fairly certain I am not the only person to have ever gone through that. But just because the source of the Block is different doesn’t make our experience invalid or unimportant.

So, what if Life’s not the problem? What if we go back to the example of perfectionism and took it a step further? As artists, we are always putting ourselves out there. Our work is exposed to all, which means we open ourselves up to critique both good and bad. When we relinquish our work it means we are risking failure, risking that someone will hate what we have made. Sometimes, we can be so connected to our work that any negative criticism is taken personally, as though we are no good. Basically, I think our relationship with our work and how we interpret other people’s reactions to it can negatively influence the conclusions we make and, if left unchecked, paralyze us. Maybe then, it's not perfectionism but rather performance anxiety. I think we have to give ourselves permission to fail and to be able to accept failure as part of the growth process. We have to be able to see that failure does not mean we are bad people or that our talent sucks. It just means in that particular moment, we might not have been at our best.

So, what then? Then there’s the choice, isn‘t there? Give up? Or do we reassess, get back on the horse and fix it.  Or, if it can’t be fixed, write something else. But don’t stop. Don’t give in to fear. Don’t let how we think other people see us silence our voices. We are each unique. We all have a Voice for a reason, and the best part is, your voice is your own. If you don’t share it, no one else will.