This post, from C.L. Anderson, originally appeared on SUVUDU.
I don’t. Really. I don’t believe there is a mental disorder that only strikes writers. As my friend the writer Steven Harper Piziks put it: dentists do not wake up in the morning, go into the office, stare at an open mouth and say “OMG, I can’t drill! I just…can’t…drill…” Or if they do, we call it burn out and the smart dentist changes jobs, or gets a better shrink.
But writer’s block is mysterious, it’s dramatic. It is regarded as a sign of true artistic temperment and possibly genius. Because everybody knows Geniuses are tempermental and a little c/r/a/z/y eccentric.
In short, unlike the dentist’s failure to drill demonstrating the symptoms of writer’s block gets you attention and sympathy and even a weird kind of respect. Kind of like the ladies of old Great Britain with their Nerves and Vapors.
Don’t get me wrong, writing is a tough gig and there are days it does not go well. In fact, there are days it doesn’t go at all. I have been stuck, even mired. But usually this is because of something I’m doing, or not doing. Usually, I am not looking at the scene in the right way. I don’t have a clear handle on the goals of the characters, or, worse, I’ve gotten lazy and ignored something important further up the line, or refused to acknowledge that the way I had planned to write the scene is no longer going to work because of changes I’ve made to the plot.
In cases like these, the answer is similar to that with any other sticky problem. Step back. Walk around the block. Take a shower. Do a load of laundry. Work on something else. Come back fresh and ready to do the needed work. Amazing how the words almost seem to rearrange themselves and provide the answer.
This can be hard to do, however, when you’re under pressure. And everyone who writes professionally is under pressure. Writing is a performance art and it is also piece work. You don’t produce, you don’t get paid. You don’t produce, you lose your audience. To make your living eventually something of yourself has got to get out there and face the judges and the judges have to buy it, literally.