What do you – the epitome of ‘todays author’ – and Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf and Ernest Hemingway have in common?
Its hard to believe that some of my favourite and internationally respected authors suffered lapses in their ability to think of the next thing to write. I take comfort that I share something in the tormented creative space with Hemingway.
Writers block can cripple a scene, suck your creativity dry and leave you disillusioned and dispirited. Staring at the blank page or screen and pretending you are writing something by slowly tapping out the words “I have nothing to say” makes things even worse.
Although it may seem negative, the way to dig oneself out of the writers block is to continue writing… anything.. “I am nothing. I know nothing. I am rubbish.” will serve as the starting point for better quality words – really. Julia Cameron, author of The Artists Way, encourages this freestyle flow of emotional outpouring in order to push through the blockages and allow the muse to retake her place with your imagination. Countless writers have followed her methods over the last two decades and as painful and confronting as some of the exercises laid out may be, none can complain that they suffer from writers block again.
Poet William Stafford advises writers who say they have Writer’s Block that “There is no such thing as writer’s block for writers whose standards are low enough.” It was here I realised that the blockage is an internal switch which only the individual can monitor or change.
Writers block is the low point at which the self critic takes charge, feeding on the writer’s insecurities and self doubt fuelled by fear. Fear can be one of the main ingredients feeding writers block or the base of writing reluctance and, if left unaddressed, can lead to writer’s paralysis and creative death.
Fear has been said to stand for False Expectations Appearing Real – however – for the person in the grips of this emotion, it is difficult to logically speak to them about expectations, perceptions and reality, given the mind cannot distinguish between them.
For most writers, fear appears as a deep, dark, sick feeling of self doubt – ugly voices and feelings of low self worth as they rear their very real heads, taunting and criticising. Julia Cameron’s method maintains that writers should face the voices behind the fear, naming the specifics and analysing the reality of each. For many, fears are a lot smaller issues than the elaborate stories built around them.
It is through acknowledging that fear is driving the blockages and recognising the specifics behind the fear, that the writer can move through and beyond this paralysing state.
So write, and keep writing – even if you are voicing your fears. You are in good company while you do.