The Only Cure for Writer’s Block? Writing.

When I teach writing, I always tell people that the only cure for writer’s block is writing.

Now it’s time for me to buck up and follow my own advice.

I’ve read all the Dark Crystal books I can get my hands on, cover-to-cover, poring over the pictures and taking notes. I have enough bare bones to begin writing my contest entry. There’s no more excuse now for putting it off. Except that I’m intimidated.

The world of the Dark Crystal is lush and complex and ancient and, above all, visually stunning. A world meant for the eyes to devour. And capturing that same sense of awe and beauty in writing will be difficult, so difficult that the task of transforming a blank computer screen into something similar seems almost impossible.

But starting a new project always feels impossible. And by not writing, I’m not using the part of my brain that knows how to make those connections, that can break through writer’s block. There are things that can happen in your mind when you write that just won’t happen when you’re just thinking. That’s why writing through writer’s block works. It gets your mind engaged in the right way again, and even if you have to write pages of crap, usually in the midst of it there’s an “aha!” moment that you never would have uncovered if you just tried to solve the issue while washing dishes or walking the dog, staying in your mind, not using the tools that you will need to break through this wall. You can’t nail a board back onto the deck by just thinking about a hammer, and you can’t break through writer’s block by just thinking about it, either.

Mondays are my blogging days, which give me a reprieve. And tomorrow I blog for Young Adult Catholics. But on Wednesday morning, my task is clear: I will be writing my outline for the Dark Crystal’s Authorquest. Here’s hoping that will help my story “crystalize” enough to write those crucial 10,000 words.

4 Responses to The Only Cure for Writer’s Block? Writing.

  1. Tom Elias says:

    Recommendation: Do an outline, by-scene. This uses your analytical mind. Then when you’re ready to engage your creative mind, you have a structure to hold it up.

    • Thanks for your comment, Tom. I have mixed results with outlines. I used to use them religiously to plot my novels, but have since moved toward a more “organic” approach to writing, letting it unfold as I go along. However, for this particular project, where I feel a bit nervous about getting started, I think creating an outline is wise, for the reasons you gave.

  2. G says:

    I find that once I’ve created this elaborate skeleton, I lose interest in the actual writing of the thing. I know that authors often do (and at times need to) think out the ideas, symbolism and structure etc., but I’ve not figured out how to harmonise that with the pleasure/feeling-driven experience of writing in a state of flow. This means that I am a slave to moments of inspiration, which don’t happen often.

    • A lot of people do lose interest once they’ve “answered all the questions” with an outline, and I think it’s perfectly justifiable for these authors not to outline, or to only outline very sparingly.

      I’ve spent most of my “writing life” forcing myself to write even when there aren’t moments of inspiration — because my moments of inspiration are also fairly infrequent, and tend to happen when I’m driving, which doesn’t mix well with writing. But what I’ve found from this is that usually after writing for 20 minutes, sometimes 30, I can get into a state of “flow” even if the writing was arduous at the beginning. And when I go back and read over what I’ve written, I find that what I wrote in flow is not necessarily any better than what I wrote arduously; it just felt nicer to write.

      The problem, of course, is that waiting 20 or 30 minutes for writing to feel “good” can seem very time consuming (I certainly wouldn’t warm up for 30 minutes before I exercise — I want the whole deal to take just 30 minutes!) Still, I think even if you stop while the writing is still arduous, the fact that you put in that time makes it easier to keep pushing past those barriers in the future.

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