Friday, 17 June 2011

Writer's Block: For Reals?

Up until a couple weeks ago, I would have said, with absolute certainty, that there was no such thing as writer's block. Does. Not. Exist. A pathetic excuse for a frightened writer. I've been writing since I was 11 years old, and I had never experienced writer's block. And then it happened. I got writer's block. 

Yup folks, some boogie men are real.

After publishing "Gasher Creek", I started to have trouble writing new material. I had a pile of short stories, a couple old novels, and a bunch of new ideas. And I couldn't work on any of them. I just couldn't. I tried--I spent hours trying. I even put some of Ray Bradbury's tricks to the test, but nothing happened. It was just gone.

This, to say the least, was a terrifying experience. I felt like I had lost an arm or a leg. It made me think of poor W.P. Kinsella, who lost his writing ability after being struck by a car. But I wasn't struck by a car. So how did it happen?

I still don't know, however I have some suspicions. I think it was either:

a.) The fulfillment of a goal that I'd had since age 21 (finish and publish a novel). Now that the goal was reached, what reason did I still  have to write?
b.) The positive responses of readers. This may sound odd, but I think it gave me a bit of performance anxiety. Could I make my next project as good?
c.) Trying too hard. I think I was forcing myself to write, and forcing yourself to do anything is never a good idea. 

So what did I do to reverse this? Well, I did nothing. Seriously--I stopped writing. I set it aside and watched TV. Went for walks. Got REALLY depressed. And then, a few days ago, it just started again. Snap--just like that, after a three week absence. I got an idea, and I started a new book.

I don't understand it. The creative process is mysterious to say the least, but now it seems even stranger to me. And that's the word, I think: A stranger. A shadowy guest that comes to spend time with you for awhile, and then bids a fond farewell. Where he goes, I have no idea.

I've had plot knots take days to unravel. Sub-conscious symbols from my own life have popped up in my stories without my knowledge. I've even had disagreements with my characters (and they always win), but I've never had my ability simply leave without so much as a note.

Quite rude, this muse.