The universally feared and loathed King of Writer’s Block…this gentleman and I, we know each other quite well. I’ve been to see him many times these last few years (unwillingly, of course). I’ve spent countless hours in his presence, staring at him through the blinking cursor on the screen. I don’t know what he looks like to you, but I can definitely tell you what he looks like to me.
He is an extremely boring, nondescript figure, almost impossible to describe. This is of course, by design. If he were in fact interesting in any way, he would risk inspiring an idea in the writer he is tormenting, which is something he absolutely does not want to do. He sits on a throne, but it’s very plain, more like a block of wood than a royal chair. His palace is a brick building with only a single door. The King of Writer’s Block has no windows in his palace. Again, he can’t take any chances with those pesky imaginations. Even a tiny detail can kindle a spark that would loosen his grip on whatever writer he currently has in his stranglehold.
Beside him sit his sisters, Panic on his left and Frustration on his right. Panic is a wizened, frazzle haired woman with a horrible laugh, who unleashes this laugh on me whenever my eyes glance at the clock. Nothing makes her happier than watching me nervously ticking the seconds by and gazing at the blank screen. She is fond of whispering worrisome statements to me, such as: “You really need to get this done, you’re falling behind.” Or, “Come on, you only have two hours to write tonight. You’ve already used an hour and a half. Tick Tock.” Or my personal favorite: “I thought you were supposed to be creative. Go on then, be creative.”
His other sister, Frustration, is very silent. She only speaks towards the end, when The King of Writer’s Block and his sadistic sister Panic have pushed me to the brink. When Frustration speaks it’s in a loud shriek, a shriek that reminds me of the sound of a car alarm combined with nails on a chalkboard. This is always the last straw and I run screaming away from the computer, too overwhelmed to try to continue any longer. They are a very pleasant bunch.
For a long time I allowed this dastardly trio to keep me from writing. And to be totally frank, I sometimes still do. To me writer’s block feels like just that, a block. Heavy, solid, impossible to move…suffocating anything around it or under it. And the longer the block remains in place, the more those counterproductive emotions grow around it–frustration, panic, doubt, blame, guilt and eventually the worse of all, resignation. I suppose, I would say, I should just stop. Because this writer’s block is never going away.
But as time has progressed, I have found that the King of Writer’s Block does have a weakness. His nemesis, the dogged and reliable Persistence. Persistence is not fancy. She has no special talents, and she doesn’t bring many ideas with her. But I’ve found that if I persevere in writing about something, ANYTHING for goodness’ sake, I can usually shake myself lose from the King’s stranglehold. It isn’t easy. Sometimes it feels like I’m taking several steps backwards. Why am I sitting here writing about the pretty flowerpot I saw this morning or the new pumpkins my neighbor carved to decorate for Halloween? “Come on now, aren’t you supposed to be working on your book? Your book isn’t about flowerpots and pumpkins.” I’ll grumble. And I know this, and yes, it stresses me out. There’s that panic again. But somehow, in the process of writing something for the sake of writing it, I’ll often find that the other thing I’m working on suddenly starts to make sense again. I don’t know why it happens, and I don’t know if this is something that just happens to me, but whatever it is it seems to work. Eventually.
What does writer’s block feel like to you? What strategies do you use to overcome writer’s block? If you’re someone who is struggling with this I hope that you’ll keep writing and not give up. We all have our stories to tell, they all need and deserve to be heard. So if the King of Writer’s Block is standing in your way, just write. Down with the king.