Friday, December 18, 2009

Writer's Block, Bah Humbug!

“Start the restoration period by recognizing that being unable to write is primarily a state of mind. Fear is the basis for this state of mind, fear that the writer cannot write anything worth publishing.” -- Peggy Simson Curry in “How to Get out of a Creative Rut.” [reprinted in The Writer, January 2010]

There were a number of blog posts and forum discussions about writer’s block this week. Maybe it’s the weather. The area where I live went four days with no sun and cool temperatures. Maybe it’s pre-holiday blues. Regardless of the cause, Ms. Curry is right. A writer’s state of mind has a lot to do with being unable to write. One of my favorite quotes (I used it earlier in the year) is “If you think you can’t, you’re right,” attributed to both Henry Ford and Mary Kay Ash (of the cosmetics firm). It's difficult to remain positive when the words aren't flowing onto the screen, but we must. I find taking a walk helps, or better, having a piece of cake or a bowl of ice cream -- anything to take my mind of writing for a brief period.

Fear of failure is also something to consider. As a writer, I need more than positive thinking to break a block. I need to be willing to fail, to write utter crap and feel good about it. I once spent twenty minutes writing about why I couldn't write. I didn’t pay any attention to what I wrote. The result was gibberish that was of no use to anyone, including me. However, it did get me writing again.

I blame this fear of failure on our education system. Failing is something that we’re taught is not acceptable. How often does someone get a pat on the back for missing the game winning basket? At least the person was brave enough to try. Shouldn't that count? Getting a D, or worse an F, on an assignment is something to be ashamed of. Why? I taught for a few years and wondered when a student received a low grade how much of it was my fault. Had I not been clear in my lectures? Yes, there are times a student simply doesn’t put in the effort, but is that always the case?

I’m rambling here. Sorry. My point is as writers we must think good thoughts, push the fear of failure to the side as much as we can, and put words to paper with the knowledge that eventually we will write something of interest to others, Or better yet, pen a piece that wins first prize in that contest we’ve entered every year forever.

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