On Writer’s Block

Last week, I spent some time discussing my writing life with some interested folk. I’d been asked to attend a poetry reading, though the evening redirected itself towards my novels – that’s fine, it’s all just words that have travelled through me after all.

As I read a couple of chapters of Do Sparrows Eat Butterflies?

[by request, no less – is it possible for a writer to have a ‘greatest hits’ tour?]

I once again shared the genesis of the novel. In a nutshell, it goes like this:

  • In the previous novel (completed in 1993/4) the main character, George, gets to a railway platform as he tries to escape London
  • I had in my head that he would leave the city and travel to a drop-out community where he would experience his turning point.
  • Something made me make George turn around
  • And the drop-out community became Certainty in Do Sparrows Eat Butterflies?
  • However, when I got to page 60 of Sparrows, I put it down and didn’t write another word for 5 years
  • When, in 2001, the story could no longer be contained

I’ve told that story many times, I’ve got it squared away in my head, heart and soul. But once again, in the telling, I found people were interested in the journey I laid out. And my process for finding, exploring and, yes, writing a story.

All of which got me thinking about writer’s block.

Though I tell myself those 5 years of not writing were what the story needed to gestate, that I needed to grow before being ready to tell the story fully

[all of which is true through the denial/avoidance lens]

the truth is that I was blocked, by whatever definition exists for writer’s block.

Wait, there isn’t a single definition, let me create my own.

Writer’s block is the state of wanting to write, yet somehow not writing

I did a quick search this morning, and there are many articles on writer’s block, though few touch into my experience of how I moved through and in the block.

Here’s what the search told me:

If you are experiencing writer’s block, just write

And, yes, that is my experience. But saying that is like saying:

If you have severe vertigo and are scared to stand on the edge of the roof of a very tall building, just stand on the edge of the roof of a very tall building, you’ll get over it

I am sure the writers sharing this sage advice mean well

[and their advice is sound, the trick to moving through writer’s block IS to write]

but it’s not enough. Everything I’ve read on the subject separates the writer from the writing. It all assumes that the writer is a fixed phenomenon, and that the problem is with the writing. That’s not my experience, which instead says its not either/or, and instead very much both/and.

Here’s where I’ve got to: writer’s block happens when a writer is not motivationally aligned with the story

[for fiction writers, let’s call it ‘subject’ for everyone else]

they intend to write.

You are blocked, not someone else, and not the writing.

It’s writer’s block, not writing block.

Work on the writer, you unblock the writing.

None of the pieces I reviewed asked:

  • Why am I writing?
  • Who am I writing for?
  • What do I believe I should be writing?
  • What do I want my writing to achieve?
  • What do I want writing to do for me?
  • What do I want writing to do to my audience?

All the advice I reviewed assumed that the writer has considered such questions, and has aligned their writing self with the answers they’ve found.

And yet, in my experience, they haven’t.

And so we come to my epiphany. I’m a trained counselor, certified in use of psychometric assessment techniques, with nearly 2 decades of professionally assessing why people do what they do, and helping them do more of it. I’m also the author of 8 novels, a book of poetry and several screenplays. Until this week, I’d never put those two areas of experience together in my mind.

But I have now.

I’m uniquely placed to help people move within, through and out of writer’s block

[with a little more depth than simply saying “just write”]

and love to do so.

So, without a beat of hesitation, I’m developing some tools and an interactive approach to do just that. Locally, here in Connecticut, I’m planning my first workshop, which will be announced in the near future. There’ll also be an online/virtual offering. If you’re interested in trying any of it out, let me know. If you have a friend who writes and who is blocked, give them some love and point them in my direction.

In the meantime, stay tuned to vincet.net for what’s beginning to emerge

[and, yes, keep writing!]

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