It was just one of those days….

Yesterday, I was hit by a particularly bad case of that debilitating inconvenience called Writer’s Block. I’d just finished writing up a review of Holly Black’s latest YA novel White Cat and had then picked up Tim Lebbon’s weighty new collection Last Exit for the Lost, which is next on my list of books to reviewed. I started reading the inner flaps on the dust jacket, in particular the biography on the back flap, and read of his list of awards and achievements and, somewhat absurdly, I just sunk into a mild funk right there and then. A little mantra started bouncing around my head, something along the lines of “I’ll never be that good” and “I’ll never be that original”. It didn’t help that it was quite overcast outside, so the light in my little corner of the universe was somewhat murky and only managed to emphasise my black mood. You get the idea.

The net result was that I tried working on one or two of my stories, but, very soon afterwards, I stopped working on those one or two stories because I just couldn’t get the words out. I sat in front of the computer and metaphorically dribbled like an idiot. Naturally, the harder I thought about what words to write, the less forthcoming they were. For the first time in quite a while, my mind was blank – apart from the tumbleweed stirring the dust as they rolled by.

Let’s be honest, it is both simultaneously natural and absurd to feel like this. Natural, because when you read quality literature, of whatever style, you’re bound to think that, knowing your own work, there’s no way you’ll ever be able to climb that literary Everest, so why are you even bothering? We are our own worst critics – I should know, because generally speaking I am incredibly hard on myself when it comes to my creative endeavours. It’s also absurd because most of the people’s material you’ve read have been writing and honing their craft for years: I’ve only been writing for nigh on 11 months now. Despite my relative newcomer status, I’ve already had three stories accepted for publication, which for any new writer, is an achievement anyone would be justifiably proud of.

Part of the problem, I think, is that the publications I have stories in have yet to be published. I don’t quite believe that my stories have actually been accepted for publication – it’s that surreal interregnum between acceptance and having the book in my hand or seeing the story in the online ‘zine. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet, I don’t think. Once I see my name in the table of contents then I think I’ll just sigh heavily with relief and feel more reassured that I’m still heading in the right direction.

The bottom line is that I just need to push those negative thoughts aside and keep pushing myself, in terms of both writing and reading. After all, I don’t want to be known as a *insert favourite author name here* copyist, but as someone who has a literary voice of his own. I can only do that by pushing forward and practising. Even with all the frustrations that writer’s block brings with it, I still enjoy watching the alchemical transformation of a series of abstract ideas in my head becoming physically manifested on the virtual page. It never fails to amaze me. It amazes me even more considering that thirteen and a half years ago, when I suffered my stroke, I could so easily have lost that ability to be able to articulate and write down those ideas.

I also rest easier knowing that I am not alone in having temporary verbal blockages – even the greatest of our writing influneces had occasional wrestling matches with just not being able to write anything. Roald Dahl was, apparently, quite prone to writer’s block, and would sink into depression for months because of it. Knowing this, I know too that I will rise out of it and start writing again, just like every author does. At the time it strikes, however, it’s anything but amusing, and it’s easy to fall prey to the negativity it inevitably engenders.

So what did I do? Just chilled and forgot about writing completely. Watched some documentary programmes on TV. Listened to some music, surprisingly mellow sounds too, not the usual brain-numbing white noise jet-engine blast that I normally favour (yes, I have strange ‘music’ tastes – so sue me). Talked to a few people online and relaxed eventually, so that when I woke up this morning, I felt refreshed and ready to get on with it again.

I always knew there were going to be stumbling blocks along the way. Now, it’s just matter of developing coping strategies so that I can lessen the effects of said blocks. All writers need to do this, because, no matter what you think, you will encounter similar difficulties when writing. Find some diverting amusement, like playing guitar or artfully stapling yourself to the ceiling, whenever the dreaded beast strikes. This will, at least, take your mind off the annoying fact of not being able to string words together coherently, and stop you from trashing the study yet again. The last thing that anyone wants is to be caught unawares. Just be prepared.

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One Response to “It was just one of those days….”

  1. I have to say, having watched Trantrums and Tiaras today, and my responce to this and several other such prgorams watched in the last 10 days… i can honestly recomend them as a way of getting your fingers tapping!

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