Write anything. It can be bad. It can be horrible. It can be completely irrelevant to what you should be working on, but you know what? If you’re writing something--an.y.thing--you’re not blocked. Don’t give in to the myth. Don’t let your fear tangle you up. Take your blank page and stuff it (full of words).
On an ironic side note, the day after I wrote this post, guess what I found in my inbox? Two emails from two separate writing blogs, both about writer’s block. Okay, universe, what are you trying to tell me? At first, I actually considered changing my post. I thought, maybe I’ve just been lucky and haven’t suffered from writer’s block. Maybe I’m not being sensitive enough to the dilemmas of my wordly cohorts. Then I read the posts.
Nope. Not a believer.
The thing is, they talked about issues like not having ideas, not being inspired, not having the energy, even having too many ideas to focus (I might suffer from that occasionally). They talked about great solutions: get exercise, use writing prompts, unplug, free write. I’m sure they all work well.
But here’s the thing. That’s not the same as not being able to write. That’s not being able to write well. So, let’s call it what it is. Not writer’s block. It’s writer’s sludge. It’s when all that comes to your mind is crap and all that comes out is crap. Hot, stinky, crap. Like a pile in the corner that the kitten just left. Oh, wait. No, that’s my living room. (Anyone want a kitten?)
Writer’s block, as most people refer to it, is just an excuse. Trust me. I’ve used it. It sounds much more important and sympathy-inspiring than to just admit, I don’t feel like it. If you’re having issues writing, you’re not blocked, you’re sludgy, and you don’t have to be.
Being in an MFA program is a different type of deadline than a publisher or employer breathing down your neck to get it done. It’s the difference between being paid for your writing and knowing that you’re paying for it. I’ve been in the place where I had an assignment of 15 pages due and the last thing I wanted to do was to jump into that world with those characters. But, I had to write, so I wrote something I hated. It was awful. All 15 pages will likely be trashed. I could have claimed I was blocked, but in reality, I was being lazy and bored.
The point is. Those crappy pages led me somewhere. They led me where I knew I didn’t want to go, but they also pointed me in a better direction. Even if you have a deadline where you can’t turn in crap, you can still write the crap first, then make it shine later.
Nora Roberts said, “You can fix anything but a blank page.”
Write something, then visit the land of what ifs (which is, btw, also the name of my blog because that's where I spend my time):
Suppose there’s a man crossing the street. What if he trips? What if he bumps into a woman who is/turns out to be the love of his life? Or his ex who broke his heart? What if he found something on the ground? What if he realized he was on the wrong street? What if he got hit by a car?
See. That took me two seconds, but gave me infinite directions to take a story in. Depending on how far you are in your story, you won’t have quite as many options, but there are always options. Go play with them. Before you know it, you’ll have something worth keeping. And if it’s not worth keeping, you’ll know that, too.
Your thoughts? Do you see this, or am I just full of crap? ;)
Denise Drespling is the author of short story, “Reflections,” in the Tales of Mystery, Suspense & Terror anthology (October 2014) and “10 Items or Less,” in 10: Carlow’s MFA Anniversary Anthology (April 2014).
Hang out with Denise at her blog, The Land of What Ifs, or on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Goodreads, or Instagram.