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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Writer’s Block 101

Yesterday, I linked to Thoughtwrestling's tips to beat writer’s block. Of course the only cure for not writing is to write, as the post reminds us. That IS the cure.

It proves helpful, however, to consider the wherefore of blocks. What holds you back from producing what you need to produce? Here are some questions to ask.

  1. Are you clear about your aims?
  2. Are you competing or comparing yourself to some model of production or effect?
  3. Are you functioning in the present or lost in the future?
  4. Are you functioning in the present or lost in the past?

Do you see what these questions imply?

One develops blocks when the act of writing becomes controlled by outside forces. Let’s look at the above questions.

Question 1. Your goal might be to produce a 500 word piece, or get something done by Tuesday. These goals differ greatly from the plan of writing a cogent piece on a particular subject about which you feel strongly and have researched deeply. This is labor of little excitement. No wonder you flail. Jump into the subject, not the result.

Question 2: You might be comparing yourself to some other writer. The Anxiety of Influence, as critic Harold Bloom had it. That anxiety can be positive if it thrusts you towards your own original expression. The more that you are pulled to that model—which is ultimately foreign to you—the more the task becomes impossible.

Question 3: The goal of your writing is the writing itself! That is, not to sound mysterious, the concise and logical thought connection of your piece. Your mission lies there. When you start tussling with the imaginary reception of your work, you lose impetus. You have to trust your methods and ability, not your hopes.

Question 4: Past successes distract. They cause you to repeat earlier successes. Alas, that bird has flown. Find a new bird.

Beating a writer’s block is as simple as Thoughtwrestling makes it. Just keep writing.

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