Monday, 14 September 2015

What Is Writer's Block?

Once upon a time, I made the bold claim that writer's block doesn't exist. You either write or you don't - there is no block.

This, of course, was back when I was writing like a demon. The very best writing time of my life was in my final year of uni and for about a year afterwards. In that time, I wrote my novel (which I had started as part of my dissertation), drafted an epic narrative poem, created a TV show and started a new one with a friend, wrote several short stories and poems, as well as some (awful, but fun) songs.

I haven't actually thought about that since - that is a helluva lot of work. Diverse and prolific. Jeez. How the hell did I manage all that?!

The best thing I remember about that time is the sense of freedom that I felt. I'd come home from work, knock out 2,000 words of my novel in an hour or two and it felt easy. The story had been percolating in my brain all day and I knew exactly what was going to happen in those 2,000 words and how to write it. The words flew out of my fingers - sometimes my 2,000 words were done in an hour. And I'd still have enough flow left to work on my epic poem, I've have scraps of paper in my diary with ideas, pieces or prose or poetry that I couldn't contain when I was at work.

I brimmed with words and stories and joy - a very important combination as the happiness I felt then was so much steadier and ever-present than the happiness I feel now. Not to say that I'm not happy now - I am, very much so - but this was like there was a tap left on inside me, with the running, constant flow of delight which came from feeling like I was in the right place. Just because I was writing all the things.

So what brought about my writer's block? I don't remember it happening - does anyone in that kind of flow just wake up one morning unable to write anymore? I think it was, to borrow a phrase, a Series of Unfortunate Events...

I finished my novel And I had no idea what to do next. The novel was an ambitious project - as my dissertation piece, I decided to go big or go home - with three different points of view, an non-chronological timeline and a lot of research. I knew step two was editing - but I didn't even know where to start.

My relationship ended
I toyed with mentioning this because - really? Am I really that clich├ęd? My on-off relationship that had finally, properly started, finally, properly ended around the time I finished my novel. So instead of figuring out that editing malarkey, I flopped about listening to sad songs and kissing inappropriate people.

I got let down 
I had a tutor who was really encouraging and really seemed to believe in me. At the time I really wanted to get into script-writing and, as he knew someone at the BBC, he led me to believe that he could give me some guidance. This didn't happen and I felt terribly let down and had no idea where to go next and, with my confidence suddenly through the floor, I didn't take advantage of all the writing opportunities available for people my age. (This is something that makes me want to shake Younger Me).

So it seems my writer's block is a perfect storm - confidence destroyed on two fronts, both personal and professional, with no big project to fall back on. Perhaps all my flow was, was just the momentum of writing every day. Perhaps my uni habits just started to, naturally, wane. Perhaps I just didn't want it to be as hard as it was.

This was more difficult to write than I thought it would be. I feel kind of choked remembering a time when I felt like I was flying. I miss that younger version of myself, but at the same time I want to kick her for letting me down, for letting opportunities pass her by because she was too heartbroken to keep on trying.

So that's my writer's block. Every block is different - but I think understanding yours is the most important place to start. Why did you stop writing? What else was happening in your life when you stopped?

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