Writing has never been easy. Good writers make it look easy, but struggle until the last word is printed or posted. For me, I have the most trouble following my own advice and separating the writing and editing process. My “left brain critic” seems to subdue my “right brain muse” with alarming frequency. The result — writing paralysis.
Recently, however, I was encouraged by the words of one of my favorite writers — Philip Pullman.
“Writer’s block . . . a lot of howling nonsense would be avoided if, in every sentence containing the word WRITER, that word was taken out and the word PLUMBER substituted; and the result examined for the sense it makes. Do plumbers get plumber’s block? What would you think of a plumber who used that as an excuse not to do any work that day?” (1)
He goes on to say . . .
“The fact is that writing is hard work, and sometimes you don’t want to do it, and you can’t think of what to write next, and you’re fed up with the whole damn business. Do you think plumbers don’t feel like that about their work from time to time? Of course there will be days when the stuff is not flowing freely. What you do then is MAKE IT UP. I like the reply of the composer Shostakovich to a student who complained that he couldn’t find a theme for his second movement. ‘Never mind the theme! Just write the movement!’ he said.” (1)
And further more . . .
“Writer’s block is a condition that affects amateurs and people who aren’t serious about writing. So is the opposite, namely inspiration, which amateurs are also very fond of. Putting it another way: a professional writer is someone who writes just as well when they’re not inspired as when they are.” (1)
In an odd way, it’s relieving to know that even writing savants such as Philip Pullman occasionally “can’t think of what to write next.” Also helpful — knowing what he does to combat it. Here’s to pushing through and writing anyway.