One possible cure. Preferable cure below.
There are two definitions for block: 1) an obstacle to be avoided; 2) a material to be used (as in construction). The cure for Writers Block (and its evil twin, Trouble Getting Started) is to abandon #1 and embrace #2. But before we can do that, we need to understand what writer’s block is and is not:
It’s not about being unable to write. Professional writers–who do not have the luxury of waiting for inspiration–know that being unable to write (short of a serious medical condition such as a coma*) doesn’t really happen. Why? Because writing is simply putting thoughts into words. If you have thoughts, you can write.
The real fear is being unable to write well, which amounts to the fear of not being able to write a great first draft.
Writers who believe in great first drafts are like romantics who believe in love at first sight. But if you ask people who’ve known enduring love, most will tell you their relationships grew into something wonderful. First drafts, like first dates, often begin awkwardly and then evolve through repeated exchanges of thoughts and feelings. That’s why one of the most fundamental sayings about writing is:
“Great stories (essays, plays, etc.) aren’t written, they’re re-written.”
True, writing Under the Influence of a muse can sometimes produce stunning results. On the other hand, writing While Not Under the Influence can produce equally effective results. Woody Allen, one of the most successful screenwriters ever, has said he demands only one thing of himself: to write for four hours a day. He doesn’t require himself to write well, because he knows he can’t plan on that. Furthermore, he has observed zero correlation between inspiration and success. He’s written flops while feeling inspired, and some of his most enduring works while experiencing writer’s block.
How to use writer’s blocks to construct something:
First, write crap! Uninspired writing can be the “plumber’s snake” that clears your pipes, allowing better writing to flow. That first hour of bad writing is often responsible for the better writing that follows. Similarly, writing what doesn’t work is often the key to figuring out what does. “Wait, she can’t do that because then he’ll know she has a gun…. But what if she hides the gun…?!”
Second, write from the left. When the right (artist) side of your brain isn’t cooperating, use the left (technician) side. Outline your story; use tried-and-true formulas (your right brain will eventually shape them into something original). Don’t have an idea? Steal one and reverse it: “What if A Christmas Carol were about a kind and selfless man?” Result: It’s a Wonderful Life. Or take time to figure out who you can base your characters on, and then write bios, noting mannerisms and speech patterns. Disciplined R & D You will lay the groundwork disorderly Artist You when he or she shows up late, smelling suspiciously of herbs.
There’s no such thing as “pure art.” All artists are also technicians. If they weren’t, their work would be incomprehensible. Remember Edison’s famous “10% inspiration, 90% perspiration” line? Well, it applies to writers, too. And, anyway, the wall between the two isn’t made of stone, it’s made of jelly. Artists spend most of their time oozing back and forth between the two sides of their brain. So lace up your literary Nikes and “Just do it!”
Don’t stumble over writer’s blocks, use them to build something that will—eventually—be wonderful!
*Not be mistaken for the comma, a somewhat less serious condition that, can, nevertheless, worsen, if, used, inc,orre,ctly,,,