August 31, 2013

Writer's Block

Dear M,

Whether one is a writer or not, this is a phrase that can be used with abandon: Writer's Block. There is some kind of a world-wide licence for everyone to use this and mean anything. Some say they have writer's block when they are unable to finish their tasks. Some say they did not send an email because they were suffering from writer's block.

I am no authority on the topic, but I am sure Writer's Block is more than a fashionable phrase for laziness or procrastination.

I haven't really figured out what Writer's Block is, except that due to some reason the writer is unable to write. Stuck. I have had short spells of not being able to write, too. For about a week or two, I could not come up with anything because I was exhausted from my regular work and other responsibilities, and my mind felt as though it had transformed into a block of ice, and whenever I thought of writing, nothing came to mind. I gave it a rest. I told myself I was going to take a break from writing. Rest was important, writing came after that. After all, without health, what writing can I do? (On another day, I would tell you to kill yourself writing, but today is not that day.) So I slept, read books and watched television when my eyes weren't too tired, attended to my regular chores and job, and tried not to think about writing. The phase passed after a blissfully lazy week.

Then there was a time when my story was almost through but a major link was missing. My character was searching for someone, and about 500 words later, he would have to find him. But how would he find him? I had no idea. I was blocked. I went back and forth, moving my characters here and there, trying to make them chance upon each other, but nothing seemed to work, nothing was convincing enough. I had to stop trying. Again, I took another break, but I think I wrote a short story in the meantime, to keep my mind off the missing link of my novel. Then I went back, retreated a few steps, thought about what all the rest of my characters were doing, pondered about what I would do in a similar situation, and gave a few nudges to people here and there, and I got a solution. Maybe not the best solution, but something to keep me going.

That's pretty much what Writer's Block is - you are looking too intensely into your world that you do not see things you wish to see. They are right there in front of you, blurred and vague. And you're frustrated when you cannot bring them to focus. When you realise this, take a step back, look away, take a few deep breaths, think of something else. It will come back to you, if you are dedicated enough. Sometimes it will not come back for days. You may have gotten over the block and started writing something else. Then weeks later, it will burst over your head and cover you with flower petals.

Some say it is a good idea to take a walk when faced with Writer's Block. I think the point is distraction. Distract yourself for however long it takes to get you back on track. Distract yourself so that the block is the farthest from your mind; if it threatens to return, send it farther away.

By no means is Writer's Block a term for excusing your laziness. A person who starts writing today (and makes a big hue and cry of it) will complain tomorrow that he/she cannot write because of Writer's Block. My only request would be, please call it by some other name.


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