…A Time and a Place
I’ve often heard people talk about something called “writer’s block,” but the ones doing the talking are rarely writers, by which I mean folks who spend a good deal of time, day-to-day, stringing words together with the aim of publication. The condition, as I understand it, prevents writers from writing. The causes aren’t physical, like writer’s cramp, or writer’s bowel (where one’s digestive tract is too closely aligned with one’s keyboard), or writer’s ass where one has simply been sitting in one spot too long.
Writer’s block is something else. Fortunately, I’ve never suffered from it. I don’t know if this is a genetic thing or not, but I can almost always find something to write about. It may not be worth reading, but that’s a judgment best left for others to make. I’ll continue to spew out words anyway.
What I have suffered from, on occasion, is a lack of desire to write. That’s a whole different critter, and one which I can’t blame on anything else. Sometimes I don’t feel like writing. Maybe I’d rather be drinking, or playing golf, or horsing around with my grandkids. But none of that is writer’s block. It’s writer’s excuse, maybe, or just simply writer’s day off.
The urge to take a break — technically known as “goofing off” (from old Greek, gewph, referring to a slovenly low-life, and middle Teutonic, auf, meaning… uhm, “off”) — is well known and afflicts word merchants, brain surgeons, sanitation engineers, and everyone in between. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It just is. Calling it by some other name doesn’t change anything. I believe writer’s block is closely akin to this malady.
The only way I know to sidestep writer’s block is to park one’s posterior in a chair and resume writing. (If you absolutely can’t think of anything to write about, try writing about not having anything to write about. Sheesh.) It helps immensely to have an actual place where one can do this. It could be a room dedicated to the purpose, but if such grand space isn’t available, one can press a corner into service.
Sadly, even such limited efforts are out of reach to some writers, or would-be writers. In which case, temporary space should be defined. A kitchen or dining room table could be commandeered, for instance. The effectiveness of this technique can be greatly enhanced by establishing a certain regularly scheduled time when the area is reserved for the writer.
I’ve known writers who, on a regular basis, lock themselves in their private space be it closet, cubby hole, or tent and refuse to respond to anything but absolute emergencies. The definition of “emergency” is, of course, left entirely to the writer. The one thing such folks aren’t doing is waiting for the muse or some other mystical entity to materialize and whack them upside the head with the brainstorm stick.
If you happen to be living with someone like this, you have my sympathy. My bride, by the way, is one who has such sympathy. Alas, it can’t be helped. Writers must write, after all. This need shouldn’t be held against them; they have no choice. It’s like an itch; it can only be ignored for so long, and then it must be given a hearty scratch.
If you’re tired of scratching, admit it. Don’t blame it on some delusional disease. Seriously, that’s not fair to people who really aren’t well.