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Monday, June 18, 2012

Writer's Blockade

To most writers, Writer's Block is a real problem that pops up when you really don't want it around.  It is generally accepted as a lack of Muse or inspiration, but can reveal itself in other ways (such as depression or anxiety).  It can be anything from having difficulty finding what to say for a week to being unable to produce any new work for years.  F. Scott Fitzgerald and Charles Schultz have both been victims of this dreaded condition.  Almost every author has had some form of it at some point.  Thankfully for me, Writer's Block has never posed much of a problem.

However, I have recently been experiencing what I would term Writer's Blockade.  What is the difference, you ask?  Think of it this way; if you are trying to get to your favorite writing spot, say a coffee shop, and it is closed, that is rather like writer's block.  If, however, on the way there is a traffic accident, so you take a side route but get a flat tire on the poor road conditions, then hijack a young kid's bike only to run into a protest rally, which leads you to go against the flow on foot while trying to make your way to your goal until your ex shows up and her new fiance pummels you into the ground before you ever even make it TO the shop... THAT is Writer's Blockade.  There's nothing wrong with your inspiration, your desire to write, your relationships, your emotions, or your health.  Instead, the world has conspired against you.  In short, Writer's Block is internal, Writer's Blockade is external.

An example of this would be having a baby.  Now, I'm not talking about being so overcome with elation that you simply cannot put the feeling into words.  It is the daily grind, the minutiae and incessant alertness, that stops the writing process.  For me, I spend days getting up when Addy does (usually before or just after 7), doing laundry and dishes, feeding and clothing my little girl, changing her diapers (and more if she makes a mess), playing with her, fighting with her to take a nap, taking her outside to run around, putting up with the whininess when she gets tired or upset, running to stop her when she reaches for something deadly on the table, providing comfort when she falls and hits her head, swinging/twirling/dancing/chasing her (or perhaps pushing her while she's in her little Radio Flyer), getting out and putting away a variety of toys and projects for her, keeping her from pounding or pulling at or throwing my computer, bathing her, and finally putting her to sleep around 7 or 8.  That is mommy and daddy time, and we usually spend it doing chores that didn't get completed or planning out the next day/week/month, though it is sometimes spent on small private dates (in the home, don't worry).  Sometimes, I spend the whole day driving to town to take her somewhere or run errands, getting back just in time to put her to sleep.  When we're done with our alone time, Amy heads to bed and I get time to write...  but by that point I am exhausted and unable to put coherent thoughts together.  There's none of that idealistic "you have to make time" garbage.  The choices are write or sleep.  Foregoing my stay-at-home-dad duties to indulge myself is not an option.  I usually try to write at night, but you can only hold off sleep so long before it makes the choice for you.  Don't forget, the less time you spend sleeping, the more exhausted you will be the next day.  On average, I would say I fall asleep around 11 or midnight, then wake up on the couch and crawl to bed around 1 or 2.

I've had a very hard time trying to get past a single scene in my novel, though it is an important one.  But the entire novel is planned, outlined.  I know what is going to happen next, and I still have an intense desire and inspiration to write the story.  I think that part of what made this scene so difficult to write was that I could only get through half a paragraph at a time.  Getting back into the right frame of mind after a long day takes some time as well, so that limits how much writing I could do on top of things.  I knew I wasn't really having Writer's Block, or even Writer's Ennui (a common-enough example of Writer's Block that it really deserves its own recognition).  But having difficulty with that scene made me doubt my ability to write and question how good my novel really is.  Would my readers be able to get through that scene, or have I just set up a proverbial Rivendell?  Would they be able to tell that I wrote it over the course of a hundred different sittings?  Will that scene even be in the final draft of the novel?  Should I be spending my time or more "productive" things?

In my case, it appeared that this blockade was not going to end anytime soon.  If anything, it was compiling greater obstacles to throw at me for the future, and this may still be the case.  From what my stay-at-home-mom friends tell me, you don't really get time to yourself until they start going to school, and that is a ways off for me (and further if we have another child).  Thankfully, I was able to find a hole through the blockade last weekend.  There really is a way around this debilitating condition, but it is not any easier than curing Writer's Block.  In one weekend I wrote over 2500 words (which is astounding for me) while still managing to do all the chores, go to church, go on two dates with my wife, celebrate Father's Day, and care for my daughter.  I am stoked.  So, how did I get around the blockade?  That is for another post.

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