Sometimes it seems impossible to write. It is important to analyse why because the answer isn’t always going to bed with a good book. Professional and amateur creatives can suffer. Here are a few possible causes and possible solutions.
A representation of writer’s block by Leonid Pasternak (1862 – 19
1. The persistent thought that I am not really a writer. It can be called imposter’s syndrome. It happens after I have read a superb novel, admired a friend’s poem, or worse- several friends’ brilliant poems. I discover I cannot write a poem I have committed to write or continue working on my novel. Or possibly, I have finished a poem/chapter I am pleased with and hesitate to start a new process of creativity.
I remind myself that when I was in paid employment, I didn’t regard myself as an impostor. I didn’t refuse to go to work in case any one discovered I couldn’t do my job. So why with writing?
My writing focuses on the expression of emotion and that can be demanding in its own way. I may need to rest if I’ve been concentrating on working through intense scenes in my novel. Writing a poem can involve research and a degree of self-questioning. That may suggest I chill by going for a walk, meet a friend for a chat or perhaps shift my focus.
2. Some blocks happen to anyone – physical or mental illness, death of a relative or friend, the end of a relationship, moving house. These events knock you back whether or not you’re a writer and when they happen to me, I tend to ask myself the question – what would I do if I were employed? Would I go to work? And if I had no choice how would I cope with the changed circumstances? Talk to friends, ask for professional support? How would I look after myself?
3. When I first started to write a novel, I read far too many success stories. People who were published after completing their first novel with agents bidding to represent them. Novelists who completed one book a year. I expect there were articles about the process of writing – not only the ‘shitty first draft’ and ‘the soggy middle’- but the reality that writing is hard work. That each novel, each poem is a fresh discovery and only rarely does it come easily. Nowadays, I read more circumspectly. I am less easily persuaded that all you need is a laptop and inspiration will flow. In other words I no longer believe the propaganda or the myths.
I think we all have unrealistic expectations. I meet many good poets who are unpublished; novelists who have not yet got that lucky break. So part of writing, isn’t simply re-writing, cutting out words to make those that remain more effective, but also becoming resilient. I don’t think ours is the only work that requires a toughness to knock backs – job seekers have it in abundance, Big Issue sellers and many others. If being creative is your source of income, that too causes its own pressure, its own block. Persistence, trying other options and taking a break can all help.
References: The representation of writer’s block was taken from Wikipedia on that subject.
All the photos were taken at St. Mary’s Allotments, Radford Road, Leamington Spa at their open week-end in September 2019