Gum Under The Table

“The place where optimism flourishes most is the lunatic asylum Havelock Ellis

Ien, our favorite guest blogger, brought a topic to the table (and by table, I mean FB table) that struck me as deeply, profoundly important: Writers’ Block.

We’ve all read about the various manifestations of it. Some have experienced each and every one of them. Twice. We’ve read tips and tricks on how to clear those hurdles…but what struck me is how universal a process this is for us. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had moments where the pen (keyboard–shut-up) feels too heavy, the words feel like razors and the story itself—our beloved—is for all practical purposes sleeping on the couch.

It isn’t going away either. It wounds us, but I wonder…does it wound us because we fight it? What if the manifestation has a purpose? It reminds me of a child I once knew who was terrified of diving into the pool. He wasn’t afraid of water, or swimming, or even in hitting the water…it was the jumping that got him. He would dread it like the plague if I pushed him to go give it a shot (I babysat him for years). What if we learned to embrace it. I don’t mean love it. This kid, now a freshman in college, still fears jumping. But, the last time we talked about it, he said something that really caught my attention: “I use it as momentum for the dive–that fear sends me higher and gives me power that I wouldn’t have if I weren’t still afraid.”

I don’t know how to begin putting this bit of advice into play, to be honest. But, I’m looking forward to breaking it open and looking at it closer. So far it feels like one of those painful deep tissue massages: hurts like hell at first, but relaxes places I didn’t know were tense.

The reason this topic was brought up for conversation was because of another author who stated that writers block isn’t real. Or rather, the author stated that acknowledging it is hiding behind it as an excuse to not be productive. I suppose I’m stating the opposite. I think not acknowledging that it is occasionally part of the process can be damaging. Sort of like when my father will push through a round of golf with a slipped vertebra in his back because, “…nothing’s wrong.”

Something is wrong. But, that’s ok. Something’s wrong for me too. For all of us. At some time or another, we’ll all be in that seat. We’ll carve our name on the wall in that diner and we’ll smile when we realize that we’re not alone.

And next time…we’ll know not to stick our hand under the table…

10 responses

  1. Now, I must really say how offended I am that you found that picture of me and posted it. Tsk tsk.

    Seriously, I am in a funk, the blahs, the blocks. But, I feel its my muse telling me to stop, hold up, regroup, and relax. I take this time to reflect, blog, do laundry, all sorts of things.

    The most important thing I do during these stagnant times is read. Read at least two books at the same time. One one the way to work on blessed public transportation and one in my quiet place at home. (Me locking the bedroom from hubby and kid).

    I’d like to call it Writer’s Pause…or something more meaningful than block.

    Great post!

  2. Thanks for this! I think I stuck my hand under the table by commenting on that blog. I’m going to have a lot more to say about writer’s block, though, and soon. I feel like carving my name.

  3. You can carve it right beside mine, I’ll even mark off a little block of space for you. Want coffee? I’ll order us coffee. I’ll be here awhile. Well…at least until my looming deadline arrives. Then I’ll be under the table.

    Cheryl, yes it is! Laughter always make me feel better somehow.

    Charli, I like that: writers pause.

  4. I don’t think writers block exists with the customary negative connotation. I view it as positive, having the same function as ‘white space’ in a painting. It’s a valuable period when the mind assimilates. Try pushing really hard through that need for mental processing and most of us will end up with a product which requires much more editing than usual.

    If my mind wants time to mentally align plot and characters, I have more than enough promo and marketing work to do in the meantime. Or I switch off to another WIP, or to painting some illustrations that will accompany my books.

    I am never frustated when my mind requires quiet. That down time is essential for the creation of a quality end product.

  5. White space in a painting….I love that comparison Marsha, thank you! That fits like a glove 🙂

  6. I really enjoy your view on this. I believe that writer’s block does come up for reasons that we do not understand. I’m not sure that the author who states that it’s an excuse is fully correct–although some people do use it as one. I always feel like I’m trying when this manifestation comes up, but it may be that I’m fighting–as you say. It feels like a fight.

    Much to consider here. There are so many opinions on the subject. It is one that I’ve been really considering myself as of late.


  7. My comment on writer’s block for novelists is that one has to ride it out. What we are trying to say will come to us or it wont and we must go on to other things.

  8. Groan- not you too! I was going to blog about this in the mornings, but I think I’m going to pass now that everyone has hit this point. Though it is a great discussion. I was thinking about it today, and one thing I realized is my definition of writers block isn’t the same as some who pointed out issues they had on his post.

    Let’s say exhaustion. It’s not the same as the block. (As always, this is my opininion, disagree if you wish.) I get exhausted after long hard days, that’s a normal feeling, but if I forced myself to, I could sit down and write. Lack of motivation, is not what I would consider writers block either. Just because I don’t want to sit down and do it and make the choice not to does not mean I have writers block.

    To me, writers block is when you are sitting there, with pen (or keyboard) in hand, staring at a black or half filled page and unable to fill in the blanks no matter how hard you try. It’s not being able to come up with the next scene in your story. It’s where you are struggling for hours, days, sometimes even weeks to find the words that just won’t come.

    And though Ien makes excellent points on his post, and I agree that it is-or can be a very real issue-for some, I still feel that the original author of that post was right in saying the block is often (Not always) caused by an outer-source. This has been my experience. And I tell you what, a lot of people don’t like to hear it. I didn’t when I first came in contact with ‘the block’ and another person smaked me upside the head and told me I was using it as a crutch. But let me tell you, when I stopped doing just that, when I stopped letting it even exist in my world, and stopped allowing myself that out, the inspiration and desire to write flowed. (Do not confuse this with me saying there aren’t times when I’m exhausted and choose not to write. I’m not talking about the times when I need to sit and clear my head or read instead of write, I often plan these breaks because they are necessary to my writing process and so are-in my opinion-incorporated with my writing- they are also quite necessary for my sanity, but that’s just because I live in an insane world with monkey’s pulling on me from every direction all the time.)

    I’m not saying that every day I sit down and pound out words. There are days where only a little comes out. But there are days where I’ve sad down and gotten 10,000 + words out too. I guess I may have a better chance than others with never running out of things to write, as I don’t isolate myself to one or even three WIPs, or even to writing for that matter. So my chances of finding something to work on with poetry, shorts, novels, kid books, illustrations, and paintings and whatever else might catch my artsy attention will likely keep me pretty busy.

    And I also will sit down and write whether I want to or not. The day I decided I was going to attempt to make a career out of this was the day it stopped being all fun and games in my eyes. I think that makes a big difference between a career hoping writer and a hobby writer. If I were only to sit down and do it when the ‘mood’ strikes, then I would be a hobby writer, that I sit down at the computer after baking cinnamon roles for breakfast with the kids, shower them, dress them, clean up with them, get them to day care, sit down-write a whole short story, go do 9 hours of work, come home, do 2 illustration out lines for my opening dive in tomorrow morning, and still here I am, prepared to do my duty for another hour before finally heading off to bed, that makes me a career writer. I’m tired. I’ve been up for 19 hours, I’ll only get 5 hours of sleep (assuming I’m lucky and the kids don’t wake too early) but I’ll be here all day tomorrow, working on my illustrations/writing. Damn it! I don’t have time for a block. And I really truly believe in the depths of my heart, that writers block, that true blue disease that will NOT let you write a single word no matter how hard you try, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I’m just saying, exhausted, unwilling, uninterested, uninspired and neglagence is not the same as a blockage. In our careers, no matter what choice we make in them, we all have to work through those issues and it’s crazy talk to think that because we’re writers we don’t have to put up with these same hardships. I think it’s harder on us because we’re forced to be our own driving force… and absolutely, that can get overwhelming! It’s hard staring it all in the face and there are a lot of people who make up excuses to shy away from having to go outside their comfort zone. Writers block happens to be a universal, versatil, and easy to pluck from the tree of excuses… and it makes us still sound like we’re doing the best we can.

    But then again, as I said on Ien’s post. Perhaps I’m just lucky, and if so (knock on wood) I pray I never ever come up against the real thing, becuase I know how hard my pretend writers block was back when I first started this, and if it gets worse than that, let me tell you, that’s one experience I can live without.

    When I first jumped into this conversation, I did so with my eyes half shut, but I’ve thought a lot about it, and I’m not saying ‘writers block’ doesn’t exists, but I am saying that I think it’s a lot easier to over come in most cercomstances than we’re willing to admit. (Now please, don’t kill me for speaking out on this one, I know it’s a touchy subject, and I’m not trying to hurt anyone’s feeling, just giving you my viewpoint on the matter.)

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