By: Ashley Kath-Bilsky
It never ceases to surprise me how a certain quote from a book or movie will surface from a distant memory out of the blue. This particular quote by the fictitious archaeologist/adventurer Indiana Jones in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, has been replaying in my brain for days now. Why, you might ask? Well, perhaps to remind me that reaching one's goal is never easy, and that no matter how I may have mapped out a book in my mind (or charted its course in detail on paper), I still can get lost. In many ways, a writer is like the captain of a ship called Creativity and the book you are creating is the journey.
Nautical metaphor aside, I am talking about the dreaded curse of ‘writer’s block’. Various degrees and different causes are often attributed to ‘writer’s block’, from being distracted by family obligations or illness (that can temporarily affect the discipline and rhythm of your writing), to the pressures of another job, publisher deadlines, or creative problems within the story’s structure itself. Perhaps an author may suffer from 'writer's block' because of insecurity or fear of failure, especially if a previous book was highly acclaimed. This type of 'writer's block' happened to J.K. Rowling, who said: "I suffered writer's block badly once, and that was during the writing of Chamber of Secrets. I had my first burst of publicity about the first book and it paralyzed me. I was scared the second book wouldn't measure up, but I got through it."
A scientific explanation was also served up to explain the problem. In 2004, a book titled The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain, author and neurologist Alice W. Flaherty wrote “literary creativity is a function of specific areas of the brain, and that block may be the result of brain activity being disrupted in those areas.” So what’s a writer to do?
There is comfort (at least for me) in the knowledge that most writers experience this ‘disruption of the creative mind’ at one time or another, including famous authors. And we all work our way through it somehow. But here is what some of them had to say on the subject of the difficulties of writing and/or advice about 'writer’s block'.
“Put it aside for a few days, or longer, do other things, try not to think about it. Then sit down and read it (printouts are best I find, but that’s just me) as if you’ve never seen it before. Start at the beginning.”
~ Neil Gaiman
“Pretend that you’re writing not to your editor or to an audience or to a readership, but to someone close, like your sister, or your mother, or someone that you like.” ~ John Steinbeck
“Stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck…your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
Whether you are a writer or not, life is a journey. We are each captains of our own ship. Its timbers are crafted from our hopes and dreams, as well as perseverance, education, experience and training -- all joined together to make the vessel we need to achieve each goal we set before us. Needless to say, it isn't always smooth sailing. It's often a ‘learn as you go’ process. Sometimes there are no obstacles, no ill wind to blow you off course. Yet if there should be delays and obstacles, storms that batter you every which way, frustrating as they might be, perhaps learning to cope with those storms will make us all stronger in the end. I hope so.
Thanks for stopping by today. As for me and the status of my ‘writer’s block’, I am once more aboard the ship of Creativity. This particular journey may be slow going, but I believe it will be worthwhile in the end.
In closing, I leave you with an inspirational quote from Elizabeth Edwards:
Happy writing…and reading! ~ AKB