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The writer’s block myth

Writer’s block is a myth. The term itself is instructive: it could be construed as either a literal block encasing the writer, or a sort of solid mental state, not given to “fluid” thought. It’s a bit of both: I feel that “writer’s block” is typically too much thinking about thinking (hence the mental “block” aspect), and that physical action is the way to break it (insofar as it is like a physical object that can be broken).

The “right” state of mind will probably never come
At the beginning of this year, when I was blogging every single day, I was penning 2000-word essays in the evening after having written thousands of words for work during the day. Essentially, I was writing the equivalent of a short novel every 1.5 weeks. Moreover, since starting at my current job in the summer of 2013, I have written, I would estimate, almost 2x the volume of the King James Bible between job-related and personal projects.

Am I proud of all the material I’ve written? No. But my ability to “force” this amount of words through, perhaps in rough form early on but with plenty of refining along the way, has taught me that writing is ultimately a mechanical act; it’s not really about inspiration, at least not in the sense that is so often romanticized. It’s about mechanics.

The mechanics of writing – typing, scrawling, whatever – are an unending act that presents many possible plot twists along the way. Names, constructions, entire questions that I would have never come up with thinking idly spring into life when I have to actually commit to something, and I know I’m not alone. The “inspired” state is constructed and willed; it doesn’t descend from on high.

Act to think, don’t think to act
It sounds like bad advice, but hear me out. Sometimes I will compose lines or scenes in my head (I’m working on a collection that I will make into an ebook soon). But a-ha type moments are rare. Most of the exciting possibilities only unfold when I sit down to write – that’s part of what’s so exciting about the endeavor. The act is the catalyst for the thinking, not the other way around.

I am aiming to get my e-book done before my birthday in August. Then it’ll be on to the next collection or project. It feels like continually producing, with occasional stops along the way to restructure and let ideas simmer, is preferable to trying to plan out everything from the get-go.

There are some techniques I have tried on that front, though, such as using Excel/Numbers to plan a plot. It can be a good technique for thinking sequentially but I feel that it can lock one in before she even gets started with the actual narration and description. Right now I have been trying to approach each story as its own island, with a different style, so I am foregoing this method. “Writer’s block” hasn’t emerged yet, and I feel that it won’t as long as I just keep doing the writing “exercise,” no matter how painful it feels for the first couple of minutes when I’m running through ideas.

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