Stuck: The Dark Fairies of Writer’s Block
I see too many posts and Internet memes that claim writer’s block doesn’t exist. It’s all in your head, they say, and as a writer you just have to sit down and put one word in front of the other (yes, even I said that).
Isn’t the Internet great? A problem you thought you had—poof!—disappears, thanks to another piece of writing from someone else, someone who clearly wasn’t stuck. Who wrote. It’s a phantom problem. Just for you. Everyone else seems to be producing just fine.
I’m here to tell you that’s crap. Writer’s block does exist. I’m not about to say that it isn’t all in your head, but feeling blocked and stuck and paralyzed (creatively) is a problem that takes more than a few BuzzFeed lists to overcome. At least for me.
When a Break Becomes a Block
I took a break from writing my novel. It’s a baby novel at this point, but I took a break anyway. I declared my break proudly. Look at me, I said, I’m being flexible in my goals. I’m giving myself some space. I’m self-prescribing a dose of creative compassion.
Hooray for voluntary breaks. We writers sometimes recognize our humanity. Not all of us can be prolific word machines. (Some can, though. Cheers to my pal Clayton Smith for his inspiration to keep on cranking out the words.)
When I took that break, I set some parameters, fluid though they were, and gave up timed writing sessions and a post-or-die outlook to the blog. Nothing there said or felt like writer’s block to me.
And then, my friends, the fear crept in. That’s what being stuck is to me—feeling so afraid that where I’ve paused in my writing project could just mean the end of it. I’ve tripped on a rock and lost the stride. Not that the path was smooth, but the bumps were familiar. I know procrastination and bullshit excuses when I use them. Now, though, is when I feel afraid.
The Dark Fairies and Their Terrible Questions
I’m writing a novel about fairies, so in the interest of continuing the theme, I present the following list of questions from the dark fairies (you could call them writing demons, if that’s more your thing) who hover and keep me stuck:
- What if I can’t finish?
- What if I do finish a draft—a crappy, messy, disjointed first draft—and it’s unsalvageable?
- What if it’s been so long since I’ve worked on this story that I can’t remember where it’s going (if I even knew that at all in the first place)?
- What if there isn’t enough in my idea to amount to anything, even when or if I somehow find a way to pick it back up?
- What if I am found out as a failure, a fraud, when everyone realizes I’m an editor who helps people write and make books but can’t actually produce one of my own?
In my gut, I know the answer for those mean dark fairies.
Is it worse to fail without trying or to give my creation my best effort and still fail?
What haunts you when you’re stuck? What other writing fairies come rescue you from the darkness and help you be unafraid?by