That does not mean that I do not empathize with the difficulty, struggle, and hard work it takes. The struggle is real and sometimes it can feel like your mind is clogged up with no creative juices flowing; hence, we recognize the term “writer’s block.”
I’ve been there myself—many times. There was a time when I simply couldn’t write and thought about giving up. I thought my aspirations must be a joke. I must be the dumbest person in my writing class. Everyone has been there, even those with the book awards. If not, either you haven’t experienced it yet or you are a liar. I still wouldn’t call those times writer’s block. I suggest avoiding the term “writer’s block” like the plague.
The term writers block implies a romanticization of a writer’s life and creative process. It’s not like I’m a magician who conjures up the muse with a creativity elixir; then, words fall on the pages flawlessly like the snowflakes. Oh yeah, it’s a creative orgasm. Oh yeah, I’m writing. That’s when I write my best—the perfect time when the muse hits. When I get those new furniture that gives me a room of my own. When I get those new curtains from Pier One that simply sets the atmosphere. Or, when I feel like it.
That is not how it works.
As much as I exaggerated, I have actually run into people who have said that they write when they feel creative or when the muse inspires. The muse is a flaky date who’s never there when you expect.
The only difference between successful, published writers and aspiring writers is that they are disciplined, set time for their writing, and work hard. Pursuing your passion takes hard work. In fact, you’ll work harder than your typical 9-to-5 job.
I get it. We all dream of the day when we can tell our bosses, “Fuck you. I quit.”
I felt that way with toxic bosses. But, my boss before freelancing was an awesome manager. My boss was great and I enjoyed working with her. I just couldn’t balance family and a full-time job. And, I needed something creative. When I explained that I’m leaving for freelancing, she wished me best of luck. Most likely, she thought I was out of my mind.
Let’s break down the term “writer’s block. You have an idea that excites you. After the killer introduction, you are not sure what to say next. Or, you are not sure how to connect this event to a character’s flashback. Writing is an intellectual challenge. All of us are familiar with the days of staring at the paper or screen and frustrated. That is not a sign of defeat. It does not mean that you are unskilled, untalented, or subpar. The only time you fail at writing is when you choose to quit.
Everyone hears about the writing process starting from the 4th grade. During my grade school days, it seemed pointless. I didn’t truly understand writing process till I was older. An experienced writer understands the processes well and the concept of revisions and developmental editing versus line editing.
Good writing is rewritten. Nancy Sommers studied and compared revision strategies between amateur and experienced writers.
It came down to one thing. Experienced writers are much more comfortable with extensive revision. Revision can be a complete overhaul, shifting passages, and so on. The first draft should be have so much red correction marks that it looks like a blood scene of red ink rather than a few corrections here and there.
This type of “blood scene” can make amateur writers very uncomfortable. An experienced writer sees it as a normal part of writing.
First drafts are meant to be terrible. Keep writing. It’s okay if your sentences don’t flow and there are many errors or paragraphs that don’t make sense. The point is to set time to write and do it. In the past, I’ve told my students that first drafts are meant to be verbal vomit or “bad writing.” If they read my first draft, they’d wonder how I even managed to pass middle school. The purpose of the first draft is to get it done.
Do not share your first draft. Celebrate. Then, walk away from it for a few days and then revise. My second or third draft is what I share to a critique group. I consider the feedback and then make my choices. Then, it’s fine tuned with copyediting. The final polish or read is done to ensure that not even a comma is out of place. Then, it’s submitted for publication or agent representation.
During my drafting time, there are days when I’m staring at the screen and can only manage one sentence. That isn’t writer’s block. It’s probably exhaustion. Ever had those days when you didn’t feel that you put in 100%? You’d rather take a nap than do the dishes. The exact situation can occur with creative writing. Writing works your mind and it’s an emotional workout.
I have faced frustrations in my pen life, but it’s not writer’s block.
I follow a writing process that works for me. I make it a point to manage time and commit my time and effort to my work. That’s the difference between being a prolific writer versus a writer who dreams but doesn’t have tangible work.
For an experienced writer, there is no such thing as “writer’s block.”