Post #6 from our Year of the Novel Blogger Caro! This time she addresses some of the challenges that face the aspiring novelist, included the dreaded writers block…
Everyone talks about writer’s block but I’ve got to confess that until now, I thought it was a little bit made up.
Ok, don’t start penning hate-mail yet – “made up” is probably not the right term. I’m not lumping writer’s block in with fairies, unicorns and pale-yet-glittery teen vampires. Nor am I suggesting it should be filed under the dog-ate-my-homework genre of convenient make-believe. I’ve always known writers face challenges. But I was trained as a journalist working under the threat of tight deadlines and, in my experience, when it really matters the words miraculously find their way onto the screen. Until now, I’ve believed the words are there all the time – it’s a case of how much you want or need to find them.
But lately that’s just not true. The last fortnight I’ve legitimately tried to write, only to repeatedly find my literary cupboards bare.
Part of the problem is that most writers don’t have the luxury of calling themselves writers alone. We’re also accountants, teachers or plumbers and mothers, fathers, or children. We’re wives or lovers or co-workers or confidants – social golfers, knitters or voracious readers. We’re occasional bakers, procrastination cleaners and bill-payers – and between all that we like to drink tea and take baths and indulge in the occasional nap. When the writing’s good, it’s not so hard to set aside time to spend with our characters and stories. But when writer’s block rears its faceless head, there are a million good excuses not to write a word.
So that’s what I’ve been thinking about this week: Excuses, and how to eliminate them. Radiolab (a great science/philosophy/story-telling podcast you can access here: www.radiolab.org) does a great episode called Help! about overcoming your worst enemy – yourself. Some of the guests have gone extreme lengths to overcome traits or weaknesses, notably Oliver Sacks, who imposed a ten-day deadline on himself for completion of his first book. In order to ensure he met the deadline, he did something crazy – he decided if he didn’t, he would kill himself.
Apparently it worked. He finished the book and got it published – but the cost of the threat was terrible. It was stressful, unhealthy and totally unsustainable. He never threatened himself like that again.
I’ve got no intention of doing anything so radical – but I need to find a way of eliminating excuses. So, over the last few days, I’ve done just that – I’ve cleaned the house, stocked the fridge and folded every last piece of washing. This weekend, I’m going to disconnect the internet, disown my friends and commence self-imposed house arrest. I’ll pour a nice cup of tea, sit at my clean desk and crack open the celebratory scotch fingers. Then, I’m going to write. And what’s more, I’m going to do my darndest to enjoy it.