Have you ever experienced any of the following?
- staring at the blank page without a clue as to where or how to begin
- a rejection from an agent or editor/publisher, which throws you into a fit
- a critique that rang loud inside your head with the message, not good
enough!, even though it actually included much praise and excellent
- an overwhelming sense that the deck is stacked against you, given the odds
of getting published
- a compulsive need to go back and revise again and again each time you
learn something new or realize there are imperfections in your manuscript
- dread of the pages full of words that need to be revised
- heart-pounding cold sweats at the thought of pitching your story idea to an
agent or editor, or of going on a book tour
- nightmares where you are on a book tour and your underwear is showing
- dread of being published and getting one bad review after another, or of
having nothing left to say
There are more! Nasty little anxiety-provoking events and obsessions. You know them, and you know any one of them can lead you like a lemming into the Dreaded Writer's Block (not to be confused with the Block where the Dreaded Writer lives—more on that in a later post, when I know for sure he's out of town). No, this is the one where you feel like you've walked into a giant brown paper bag and someone stapled the open end shut. You're stuck. No way out. You can breathe, sort of, if you don't do anything strenuous. Like putting words on paper (you don't have your computer, smart phone, iPad, iTouch or any other technology with you in this scenario, but you do have a pencil, and you're surrounded by brown paper).
Okay, I'm already hearing the howls of protest from certain quarters. "No such thing! Just power through it! Go for a walk!" Well, I can tell you that if I go for a walk when I'm finding it impossible to write, the breakthrough that happens is that I find out, once again, that I love to walk! So then, the only thing I can do is give myself a break. Spend some quality time gazing at the sky, followed by more time gazing at the patrons in my favorite coffee shop. Then, to avoid offending people who don't like being stared at, maybe I'll buy a book and start reading an author new to me, one who writes just like I wanted to when I got blocked, but I couldn't get a handle on it. Hey, this author is a perfect example to emulate!
And there it is. I've finally fought my way out of that paper bag. It's convoluted, but everyone has their process. If you never get writer's block, I bow down to you in admiration and abject envy. If you do get it, though, is there something that helps you get back on the page?