Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. -- Gene Fowler

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Do It Anyway: A mantra to beat Writers' Block

Writers' Block is a familiar, formidable enemy to most writers. The paralysing fear that takes hold when we sit down to craft a scene or poem, the unavoidable question that hovers about as we type or scratch away at a notebook: "What if it's no good?"

Let's look at that. "What if it's no good?" Imagine yourself sitting at your keyboard or desk with your paper and writing the absolute worst drek the world has ever seen. So what? No one has to see it. No one besides you has to ever lay eyes upon it.

Crap drawing of a trashcan for your crap writing
During NaNoWriMo, I find it very freeing to declare before the marathon starts, "I am allowed to write the absolute worst drek the world has ever seen. Whatever I write is my own and I may do with it as I please. If I finish and decide on the first of December to shred the entire 50,000 word manuscript, that's my business. My friends and family do not have to see this. There is no shame in writing, no matter its quality."

Or words to that effect. The point is, as Lawrence Block points out in "Telling Lies for Fun & Profit", to "do it anyway". He makes reference to the plight of long-distance runners who hit a bad patch, where 'everything hurts and the whole process seems unendurable and the runner wants nothing so much as to drop out of the race." Books, he says, have bad patches too. "The important thing is to get through them, to get the words down however ill-chosen they may seem."

And you may find, once you've gotten started, that it's not so bad after all. That the words start to flow and, after perhaps a shaky start, they sort themselves out and things go along quite swimmingly. If they don't, well, there's always the shredder. But even if you decide to euthanise your work after you've written it, keep in mind: you've written. And there's no shame in that.


  1. definitely getting started is the hardest part. Just getting over the surge of procrastination and starting to write SOMETHING will usually help me get started, and then I can write continuously until something distracts the monky brain and then it's back to square one.

  2. When I wrote in my Morning Pages (which I should start doing again), I would just write out something like 'I have no idea what to write. No, really, my mind is a complete blank.' And I didn't have to write out stuff like that for long before the brain would go, 'Oh! And this happened that I need to mention...' Morning Pages aren't 'writing' so much as they are a place to drop your early morning thought garbage, but the theory applies to story writing as well, I feel.