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I've had two short stories and one essay published. I'm currently working on a "coming of age" novel set in the 1960's. I started this blog with the hope that I could share what I've learned/am learning about writing with other people and would get some of the same in return. If you know of anyone who might be interested in such a blog, please let that person or persons know about "The Writing Process." 7-8-12 I haven't worked on the novel for quite some time and doubt that I will take it up again. I'm currently working on a short story that I have high hopes for--or, if you prefer, for which I have high hopes. There is the possibility that I'll try another novel with some of the characters in this short story. Current and probable title: Not a Blind Date

Monday, July 16, 2012

WRITER'S BLOCK(HEAD)


                      Scottsdale Civic Center
                                      
                     Photo by my (much) better half, Gloria
                          
 

As a writer, sometimes your subconscious tells you: “You’re worthless and you don’t deserve to succeed. You will fail and in failing, prove to others that you are worthless.”



That’s a bit harsh, don’t you think? And you would dismiss it as absurd if directed at anyone else. But when your subconscious presents such self-destructive nonsense, you buy into it, unaware.



When my oldest son, now 37, was in grade school, I helped him train for the half-mile run, part of the school’s annual field day. I wanted him to do well, but not to feel pressured. I told him, “You are not your performance,” and explained that he had a basic value as a human being, a value that wouldn’t change however well or poorly he did. Here’s a quote from A Return to Love, by Marianne Williamson: “Again—nothing you do, or think, or wish, or make is necessary to establish your worth.” *



When your coworker struggles to finish an assignment, your daughter stumbles through a dance recital, your grandson has trouble learning to ride a bike, you don’t decide that any one of them is now worthless as a human being. When you struggle with your writing—or any other endeavor—neither do you turn into a nothing as a result.



So many of us believe subconsciously that anything less than perfection in our writing will prove that, as human beings, we belong on the trash heap. We’re garbage. And, since we know we can’t achieve perfection, we fall into the real failures: not giving our best—“Hey, I didn’t really failure because I didn’t really try”—or not writing at all.

Writers are often admonished to “just put your butt in the chair and do it. Everyday.” It’s not that easy. If I can force myself to write everyday, sometimes it allows me to flush away negative thoughts, but other times it only compounds the problem.

Writer’s block is tough to beat whether you’re staring at a blank page or blinking cursor unable to put more than three words together or whether you have a palpable fear of even putting your butt into the chair. Your fears have become a pavlovian response to writing.

You’ve probably read or been told that writer’s block comes from fear, either fear of failure or fear of success. Fear of failure is understandable to you, but fear of success? Well, that’s really just fear of failure cross dressing. Suppose you get a story, or some other type of writing published. Your subconscious will answer your “Hooray,” with “What if I can’t do it again? What if I fail next time? ”

But your subconscious is just obscuring your greater fears:

1) People will judge me by my work and if it’s lacking, they’ll deem me a lesser person. And, if I’m not writing at all, they’ll have a lower opinion of me.

2) I really don’t deserve to suceed.

Bullcrap!

Here’s how you earn the right to succeed as a writer: work hard learning to write, work faithfully on your current project, and submit your work, and submit your work, and submit your work. If you have to somehow prove you deserve success, that’s really all it takes.

In any case, are you are really obligated to be a perfect person in order to deserve success as a writer? An editor who reads your work will accept or reject it, not you. An editor won’t care if you’re a drug pusher or a saint, a brilliant story will be accepted, a lousy one rejected. Nor will most readers care, or even wonder, what kind of person you are.

Enjoy any publication you may have and, if you actually earn a few bucks, enjoy that, but don’t rejoice that you’re now a better person, otherwise, your next rejection will convince you you’re now as worthless as bellybutton lint.

Writing is messy and difficult.

MESSY:

From We Wanted to Be Writers, Eric Olsen and Glen Schaeffer, quoting Marvin Bell: “Writer’s block comes from one’s wanting only to write good stuff. Well, the good stuff and the bad stuff are all part of the stuff. No good stuff without bad stuff.”

DIFFICULT:

From Artful Sentences, Syntax as Style, by Virginia Tufte: “Writing is difficult. Whether a writer’s sensibilities are informed by one or several languages, it is not easy to capture a unique perception or idea in poetry or prose.”

In case you’re wondering, I struggled with some major writer’s block working on this piece. But I got through it by focusing on the fact that what I’m telling others applies to me as well. I hope this post will help other writers too.



*Quoted, I believe, by Williamson from A Course in Miracles.



7 comments:

  1. You make a good point, Charles, about the way we judge writers. We seem to be pretty harsh critics of most artists, and yet, as you said, we do not think less of a person who attempts but does not entirely succeed in other areas. When a great baseball player strikes out, we don't say he is a failure.

    As writers, I think it helps to remember the value of process over product. Accept that some of the writing is necessary exercise--like playing scales on the piano or doing quick pencil sketches of fingernails. These exercises are not to be judged as finished works of art.

    By the way, I really like your blog and look forward to reading more.

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  2. Thanks Lisa. Really good to hear from you.

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  3. Patricia Bradley-Bates, a fellow writerJuly 31, 2012 at 6:17 PM

    All very true. As a writer, I am afraid of failure. I like what you said here: "Fear of failure is understandable to you, but fear of success? Well, that’s really just fear of failure cross dressing."Clever.

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  4. Patricia Bradley-BatesJuly 31, 2012 at 6:20 PM

    P.S. BTW, if you want more readers for your blog, have you mentioned your blog on Facebook? You could also set up your own separate FB page for your, Charles, as a writer. Many writers do.

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  5. Several good ideas. Thanks Pat.

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  6. Enjoyed your thoughtful blog, Charles. I think a blog is good because it forces us to hit the send botton even if it isn't Perfect. We can then transfer that willingness to complete a piece to larger works. Ya think? Thanks for checking out my blog,too!

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