Sunday, January 13, 2013

Burning Yourself Out - Writing Meltdown

Some in my classes would suggest that a writer can't get burnt out, or the oft called experience, writer's block. This is when a writer has a metaphysical/subconscious block that keeps them from writer. My classmates would argue that it's "all in your head" which I would argue, "Yes that's true, there is a wall between my brain and my hand keeping me from being able to write." Other's in my class would argue - including myself - that writer's block is a very real thing; and very frustrating. So what do you do about it?

Well that's the question isn't it? Many suggest writing to be able to write. Makes perfect sense doesn't it. You cannot write, so write some more, until you can write again. It doesn't make sense, yet at the same time, this is a pretty valuable piece if advice. Like tearing down a real wall so you can build a new one. You have to smash through the pieces and then build up until you have a wall again. Yet that's not really the same thing is it, because you're not destroying your previous writing, and building up from the foundation. You're trying to push through a mental gridlock to be able to write.

So what can you do? From personal experience, I have found that sometimes the tactic above is worthwhile, whereas sometimes it is mere folly and only makes things worse. Sometimes writer's block is simply your brains way of telling you, 'stop, you're doing too much, take a break.' I would actually argue to say, this is the case and point of writer's block more often than not. So perhaps a good method is to step back, put the computer away, cap the pen, and just leave the story. Not for long of course. A day, two days at most; maybe an hour is even enough. Just give you and your story some space. Think of your story as that rebellious teenager, fighting against everything you say. If you give them some space, some trust, they tend to give you some respect in return. Imagine it as your story telling you to 'Stop! Give me some time to digest everything that's happening to me! My plot is developing, it's growing, and it's all happening too fast and I just don't have the time or resources to really understand what's happening to me.' Just like that rebellious teenager.

Of course I'm not an expert, and of course giving the rebellious teenager too much space can notably backfire depending on the situation, but hey, the cool thing about writing is, it's not going to run away with some bad boy or get into street fights or go drinking to get a feeling of control. The most the story can do is tell you to leave it alone until it has time to flesh out its own issues.

Of course, you could always take the route of the authoritarian parent, and beat that story into submission (I do not suggest doing this to real children - in fact, just don't). Sometimes taking that metaphorical switch to a story can do wonders, sometimes, it can and will backfire.

Writing is such a finicky thing, because in the end, writing will do - as the saying goes - what writing does, with or without you. This can lead to wonderful and brilliant new endeavors that get you on the New York Times Bestsellers list. Or this can lead you to a dud of a story that no vanity publisher will even print. So tread carefully.

This however brings me to my question and allows me to escape my severely inappropriate similes and metaphors. What is your experience with writer's block. Do you, as some of my classmates would attest, believe it is not real? If so, why not? Or do you believe it is real, and what do you do to combat it?

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  1. What I do to combat writer's block is to go into a different artistic venture such as listening to some hard core music, drawing, painting, etc. Or I go into the logistics: plotting out sequence of events and story boarding. But, now all I can do is sit here and think of my story as a rebellious teenager and at any moment my punk ass story is going to walk through the door and grumble, 'Mom... I'm pregnant. It's twins. Both from different daddies.' Haha. That's okay, little story, I'll go buy some diapers and prenatals. LOL.

  2. I either work on a different story, take a nap, or find something else to do. Sometimes I need to read, sometimes I need to clean, and sometimes I need to stare at the particular work in question until I am so frustrated that I cry. Sometimes an emotional release and a break for a day or so, helps.