Writer’s Block

If you’ve read my previous blog post, ‘Reading and Writing Ban’, you’ll know that I recently spent a Saturday without either of those activities. I thought I would return to my writing with renewed enthusiasm, but it didn’t work out like that.

I struggled to think of writing ideas in the days that followed. I also found it harder than normal to settle down and work at my writing – that is, the less glamorous task of redrafting my book, which I generally enjoy. During the reading and writing ban I was itching to write, but it seemed to get me out of my stride. Perhaps it’s important to maintain the habit after all.

It has, however, made me realise how free-flowing my writing has been in the past couple of years. Since finishing my Creative Writing and Advanced Creative Writing courses with the Open University I haven’t lost any enthusiasm, with new ideas springing up and old ideas retaining most of their initial charm. I’ve recently written my first full-length novel, as well as many short stories, blog posts and entries in my various journals.

I’ve always been a writer. From a young age I would read certain books with wonderment, often over and over. I would try to replicate ones I particularly liked – I would use their characters and try to write a sequel. My youthful love of Enid Blyton resulted in attempts at school tales and adventure stories, before I moved on to ‘horse books’. Sometimes I even managed to write a couple of paragraphs. And then nothing.

It was unpleasant to keep ending up blocked. I didn’t have the discipline or confidence to follow it through, but I still tried. The fact that I persevered despite lack of success was important. I now see those failed attempts as something significant in my development.

The real breakthrough came when I was eleven. As my Grandad moved nearby, bringing Arthur (a misnamed female cat), I began to have an idea that wasn’t so easily extinguished. It wasn’t a copy of another author; it was inspired by my surroundings and my own imagination. As we let Arthur out of her travel cage and she looked around I found myself seeing the world from her point of view. That story took off and, although it took several months, I ended up with a ‘book’ of 8,000 words – a considerable achievement for me at the time.

I completed more stories after that, mostly from the point of view of animals, because I could create an alternative reality. I didn’t feel old enough or wise enough to express opinions of humans – even young ones! That being said, looking back my animal characters were surprisingly astute.

During my teenage years I wrote very little (apart from exam work, of course), and although the desire to write was still there I had become blocked again. Self-doubt, fear of failure, and dissatisfaction with my technique crept in, but I didn’t have the drive to put it right (perfectionism at its worst). I occasionally felt inspired to write, but it was short-lived, and I was sadder when it didn’t work out than when I didn’t do it at all. I can’t believe I was so stupid! I pushed writing away.

It’s so easy to look back and judge your past self, but the reality is that every experience shapes us, and positive things have come from the times when I’ve felt blocked as a writer. I know how it felt when I wasn’t writing much and I wouldn’t want to go back to those times. I’ve returned with even more determination and enthusiasm than if I’d been writing consistently over the years. Sometimes creativity needs time.

Today I’ve tackled my lack-of-ideas problem head on and written about Writer’s Block. For every day of inspiration and extreme enjoyment there are several average days and the odd bad one. It’s still unpleasant to wake up one morning and feel unenthused, but it’s good to think of those days as part of the process. I feel so much better now. So, onwards and upwards!

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