Writer’s block is a sham!

Or so says Scott Berkun. The idea of framing the situation is critical:

It’s not the fear of writing that blocks people, it’s its fear of not writing well; something quite different. Certainly every writer has moments of paralysis, but the way out is to properly frame what’s going on, and writer’s block, as commonly misunderstood, is a red herring. Consider this: Have you ever been blocked while playing Frisbee? Eating doughnuts? Dancing naked in your living room? Those are joyful things and there’s nothing at stake: if you fail, who cares? Nobody. If there are no rules, and no judgment, psychological blocks are impossible. And remember writers like making names and overthinking things: there is no term for architect-block, painter-block, juggler-block or composer-block. Every creative pursuit faces similar pressures, but they don’t obsess about it the way writers seem to do.

So play. Loosen up. Smile. Break the framework that’s making it impossible to start. Forget the deadline and the assignment and just be an open mind with a pen. Remember that until you say you’re finished, you can break all the rules. If you can’t get started, your psychology is making the challenge bigger than you can handle. Thinking of the book, the chapter, the page, the paragraph, is all too big if while you’re thinking, the page remains blank. Like a weightlifter out of his class, a writer with a blank page needs to lighten the load.

As someone who enjoys writing a blog, but was faced with blank pages and a looming PhD-thesis deadline, I can relate to what he says well. The only thing on which I’d differ is that people engaged in other creative activities can be faced with equally-stuck moments and DO obsess; I know the blank-canvas feeling well, for which I think his insights are equally valid. Notwithstanding, he goes on to list a number of suggestions for overcoming writer’s block, one of which is:

Have a conversation. Since you can’t get “converse with a friend” block call up your buddy and talk. Get their opinions on whatever you’re writing, or throw them a bit of yours. Take notes about the conversation. Guess what? You’ve started writing. Friends are too busy? Go to a café or bar. I’ve found that if you tell bartenders you’re a writer, after they stop laughing, they’ll happily chat and occasionally give you free drinks. In a pinch, or if you’re a loner, talk with your dog. No dog? Create an imaginary friend (or three). Perhaps I’m insane, but I talk to myself all the time, and sometimes I even like the answers. If you know a writer friend, be writer buddies, available by phone to help each other get started.

His-torical characters could be good imaginary friends… Who’s? His. That’s H-I-S. (Link from John Naughton, who seemed to identify with the ‘whiskey and non-alcoholic alternatives’ suggestion.)

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