Let’s talk about the old writer’s block, shall we? This may be an incorrect term, “writer’s block,” since I’ve had it for about thirteen years now. It could probably be called “lack of talent” or “lack of brain matter” or “lack of compulsion.”
The good thing about having a therapist is that they don’t mind asking questions that put you on the spot or embarrass you or that will make you think. They’re paid to do it. You may think this is a random non-sequitur but bear with me a moment because I’m about to throw another at you.
Today I was reading an article about writer’s block. The author listed ten different types of the thing with advice on how to overcome it. But I didn’t see anything that applied to me. My problem is many; it is legion.
For starters, I hate being derivative. Just the idea of it turns me off of any idea I may end up with. This is a problem because it’s nearly impossible to not be derivative of something. If you think about it, there’s only so many different plot types. Some plots have entire genres filled with nothing but, such as ‘mystery’. In a murder mystery someone gets murdered and the hero figures out who done it and why. Just about all of them can be boiled down to that. What’s important, though, is how the story is told. You can give ten different writers the same starting point and you’ll still end up with ten different stories. It’s a huge problem for me, though. I started writing a story about a man who was haunted. I had several pages written and was posting them up as a sort of serial. Sure, it was a ghost story but it was different, there was a twist. And then, on a whim, I watched the movie Ghost Town. There was a line of dialogue near the end of the movie, a simple line, that bore into my brain and made me toss my story into the proverbial wastebasket. It was just way too similar to what I was trying to do. Logical? No, not really. But that’s the way it is.
Then there is what’s called the “inner critic.” I think of something and immediately think it’ll be stupid. Or it sounds stupid to me. Actually, this may have been covered by that article. Anyway, I think it’ll be stupid and that kind of puts the death mark on it right there.
The most functional dysfunction is simply that I get my pen and paper, or fire up the word processor, and whatever was in my head just disappears. Or I type a sentence or two and get bored and close it up.
I reckon the majority of professionals would see all that and figure that I don’t have what it takes to be a writer. Not the drive, not the passion, not the words. I would have to agree, but it hurts a part of me. The part that could sit down in a restaurant and write a poem on a napkin, or a short-short story on two napkins. I used to be able to write an essay or a story fifteen minutes before class started and still get an ‘A’. I never had a lack of ideas or reasons to write something down. Just, one day, it shriveled up, dried up, was blown away on the wind.
It was a simple question that my therapist had asked me. What it was isn’t all important, but it got me started to thinking about when my creativity picked up its boarding pass to purgatory and I think it all goes back to “A Chance Encounter at the Inverted Oasis.” It is my favorite out of all the things I’ve written and the one where I received a compliment that wasn’t really a compliment as much as it was a confession of the soul. As I thought about it I realized that I really haven’t written anything new since then. It was as if, in that one moment of a compliment, “Oasis” was affirmed. It’s important to note that up until then I would get compliments like, “It’s nice!” or “I like it” or “It’s good.” I had never gotten any criticism. This person, though, told me why she liked it and, more importantly, how she felt the story related to her life and why it had made such an impact. It seems to me that I haven’t written since then and I’m not sure why. It seems to me that getting a compliment such as that would be something to spur a novice on, to inspire him and push him forward. For me, it just shut me down.
I know that the best way to get over the traditional writer’s block is to just write anyway. It can be as stupid as I like, it doesn’t mean that I have to show it to anybody. Or not burn it afterwards. I just find it very difficult to do that.
Maybe it’s just age. I feel old and used up. But I know that’s not a good excuse either. Maybe it’s just the way it is and the way it’s going to be.