We all get writer's block. Yeah, some people say it's a myth, but when you're staring at the blank word document (and mindlessly eating your weight in chocolate) it doesn't feel mythic.
So I have an awesome guest poster today. You may know K.M.Weiland from her amazing blog Wordplay. Katie has an amazing new CD out designed to help with writer's block. Take it away, Katie.
Angst and Creativity
The whole idea of “suffering for our art” seems romantic when it happens in the movies. But the real-life version can sometimes seem as if it includes a whole lot more suffering than art. I’ll venture to say that anyone who’s ever tried to write anything more than a pun has spent some his fair share of time wandering around, hands clenched in his hair, eyes wild and bloodshot, muttering to himself, and generally looking a) agonized, b) insane, or c) undead (take your pick). When asked why we write, we’re usually quick to respond with an answer along the lines of “because I love it.” But sometimes it’s hard to figure out how we can love something that can make us so miserable. Jessamyn West and George Orwell, respectively, agreed:
“Writing is so difficult that I feel that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment hereafter.”
“Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
Most of us just accept the angst as a necessary evil of the writing lifestyle. But is it? Is angst a catalyst for creativity? Or is it a hindrance?
In my experience, it’s a little of both. Writing a poem, a story, or a book is a monumental undertaking. Why should we expect it to be easy? In fact, if it were easy, wouldn’t that sap just a little of the marvelous sense of fulfillment and gratification which is our reward when finally we type “the end”? In many ways, the difficulties of writing only make it that much worthier of our time and effort.
However, as too many of us who have wallowed in the black seas of a writer’s depression can attest, angst, when carried too far, can be a killing blow to our inspiration. As I point out in my recently released CD Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration (http://www.kmweiland.com/books_CWBASI.php), one of the most crucial steps in encouraging inspiration to take root in our lives begins with having a positive attitude.
A little angst is unavoidable, and arguably even important, in our experiences as artists. When we’re stuck on a tough story problem, of course we’re going to feel anxious and frustrated and frightened and perhaps even a little angry. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging and accepting these feelings when they come knocking for good reason. But it’s important we don’t allow ourselves to wallow in them. Approach writing with joy. Always remind yourself of the great blessings found in being a writer. The bad days will come. But don’t let them get you down. If you can wake each morning and approach your manuscript with a joyous sense of expectation and that irreplaceable childlike wonder, inspiration will be knocking at your mental door all day long. Harlan Ellison nicely summed up this impossible balance of the writing life:
“Writing is the hardest work in the world. I have been a bricklayer and a truck driver, and I tell you—as if you haven’t been told a million times already—that writing is harder. Lonelier. And nobler and more enriching.”
K.M. Weiland writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in the sandhills of western Nebraska. She enjoys mentoring other authors through her writing tips, editing services, workshops, and her recently released instructional CD Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration.
Thank you for being my blog guest today, Katie, and for the amazing advice. :)