Writer’s Block- does it really exist?

Almost two years ago, I printed out this pile of exactly one hundred poems I’d typed up . The poems included were written over the span of the past three years (so, since 2010 or so) but the overwhelming majority of them were actually written within the 2012-2013 year. ONE YEAR.

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A highly attractive pile of paper!

Flash forward to present day and these poems have been read over and sorted, once, twice, five times, and there’s a hefty pile I consider Not Exactly Quality. There’s another, slightly larger pile that I considered workable/submittable, and lately I’ve finally been getting around to actually submitting them places. Of course, now that I’m actually submitting, I find the ‘acceptable’ pile has shrunk yet again, and the ‘I really love this, it needs to get out there’ pile is even smaller.

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Several slightly less attractive piles                         of paper!

Why, you may ask, am I showing you piles of paper? What’s my point with all this? Why, I’m so glad you asked! WRITER’S BLOCK is my point.

For nearly two full years after college ended (when I was no longer being prompted or assigned poetry) I hadn’t written a thing due to writer’s block. Nothing I thought of seemed good enough, and when I had a good idea I couldn’t find the right words. Eventually the fear of that blank page and of the desecration of the Ideal Poem I held on a pedestal in my head led to an extreme creative drought. Writer’s Block got me, and it got me good.

Then, something miraculous happened, and that something is this: I sat my ass down in a chair, took a journal and started writing poetry. I wrote for fifteen minutes, and I surprised myself. I didn’t completely hate what I wrote. The next day I wrote for thirty, and the going was a lot harder. Then I scrapped the time idea and set myself page goals, trying to write a full page, front and back, in my poetry journal every day. I told myself I was not going to go back over anything I wrote there for a while, that I wouldn’t edit or even reread anything- anything went, single lines that popped into my head as I was going, a scrap of this, a scrap of that, disjointed stanzas, you name it. As long as I fulfilled my page quota and had one new page of raw material every day, I was playing by the rules. AND IT WORKED. So simple, yet somehow it had taken me years. And it wasn’t the first time I’d gone through this cycle; I didn’t even have ignorance to fall back on. I started feeling so much regret over the time I’d wasted not writing any poetry. If I wrote 100 rough poems in a year, how many could I have had in the space of 3 years? If I had 25 I was in love with, how many would I have to love in 3 years?? Obviously I’ll never let this happen again, I thought. But I did, again and again. The only thing I can say for myself is the dry spells weren’t quite as long.

There are those who say writer’s block doesn’t exist, that all you need is hard work and dedication to write every day and you’ll never experience it again. Then there are those who say NAY, that fabled beast is real and it will eat you alive! Who’s right? From my own experience, I’ve personally come to believe that the truth is a bit of both extremes, as is often the case. Writer’s block does indeed exist: just as being super inspired and having the words flow out of you like no one’s business is a real and euphoric experience, having everything move at a dead crawl and hardly being able to string a sentence together, feeling ‘blocked’ in other words, is equally real. No amount of schedule and dedication has managed to make it go away and never come back. I’ll be in the middle of a novel and suddenly I’m having an astronomically difficult time hitting my quota. I’ll sometimes spend nearly the whole day doing what is normally only a few hours’ work.

BUT. On the occasions I did triumph and wrote through the block, I found that it usually only lasted about a week tops, and at the end of the day, I felt REALLY good that I’d got the words out there, even if they were probably shit. Contrast that with the months (or years!) of feeling blocked that come from backing down and letting the fear build every day, each day making that wall in my head a little higher, and there’s a clear winner in the field of strategy ;).

I don’t think there’s any doubt as to whether writer’s block exists, I think the real question is whether we’ll let it get us, whether we will let it win and force us into a dry spell, or keep writing through it. I’ve let it win SO many times, more times honestly than I’ve been the victor. But I’m trying not to let that happen anymore. I think it’s likely, looking over the pattern of the past, that I will- but I’m aiming to prove myself wrong.

“writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all”

– Charles Bukowski (The Last Night of the Earth Poems)

“Discipline allows magic. To be a writer is to be the very best of assassins. You do not sit down and write every day to force the Muse to show up. You get into the habit of writing every day so that when she shows up, you have the maximum chance of catching her, bashing her on the head, and squeezing every last drop out of that bitch.”

-Lili St. Crow

{Hope you’re well and see you next week!}

~ C

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2 Comments

Filed under musings, writing

2 responses to “Writer’s Block- does it really exist?

  1. I rather enjoyed this past, but the Lili St. Crow quote is what really got me. Great choice!

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