They (meaning Stephen King) will tell you that the amateur waits for inspiration, while the professional gets to work. They (meaning Todd Henry) will glibly say “I only write when I’m motivated too. I just happened to be motivated every day at 8am.” They argue on forums and bicker in writer’s groups and oh my god, shut up already.
The shit exists. I know, because I experienced it. Many, many times.
And like the subtitle suggests, it is very similar to constipation. You might be disgusted by the comparison, but it’s universal. We’ve all taken breaks from healthy diets to indulge in garbage food, and then regretted it. Pizza, or cheesy crap, or breads and beer, or other things that aren’t on the plan and block you up. We’ve all done it. We suffer the next few days. It’s aggravating, and sometimes painful. I sit there wishing, hoping, praying, and begging for stuff to come out. I need relief. I need to go. But. I. Just. Can’t.
And then… After trying and trying and trying; after discomfort and aguish and pain and humiliation and irritability… It happens. Shit begins to flow.
It’s a struggle at first, but once it gets going… The relief is palpable. It is nearly all consuming. And the trick is, you never stopped trying to go. It just wouldn’t come out, until finally it did.
So for me, writer’s block is real. But writer’s block is no excuse not to write.
I think that’s the major thing all the pros are trying to say. Writing is hard. The longer you go between writing assignments, the harder it gets. The less “inspired” you feel, the more you’d rather be doing something else. The farther away from the final word count you are, the more daunting the work is. And the only way out of it is to do the work.
You may start and stop a hundred times, or a thousand. You may throw away a paragraph, or a chapter, or an entire manuscript. The writing doesn’t connect. It’s not up to par. It’s not your writing, as you need and want it to be. And as such, it has to go. But it’s not useless. It’s warmups in a workout. It’s the grunting and straining of trying to go when you’re constipated. It’s part of the process.
All too often, though, it is so discouraging, I just stop. I can’t face it. It hurts too much. It sucks too much.
That’s what the whole “Encouraged at 8 AM” thing is all about. As Elizabeth Gilbert explains in her HIGHLY RECOMMENDED video on creativity, the muse can take her sweet time deciding if she’s going to show up on any particular day and bless you with her divine gift of creative “genius” but if you’re not sitting there at the keyboard when she comes by… She’s gonna bail.
Showing up for your part of the job is mandatory, writer’s block or no.
Here’s a handy trick: Everyone knows the blank page is the single most intimidating thing on the planet, next to maybe Brock Lesnar. So, start somewhere.
Try writing “Once upon a time, someone did a thing. Something happened as a result. They changed in some way. The End.” Then just edit it with some detail. Believe it or not, it works.
But whatever you do, just write. Put words down. You can always delete them later, or better, edit them to work. But you can’t do anything with them if you don’t get them out. And if you stay in the story, pushing, eventually it will come out. When it does, you will achieve a state of flow, which I will talk about in the next part (and thankfully, I’ll be abandoning the constipation correlation, because I think we’ve had enough of that shit).
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