The Truth about Writer’s Block

posted in: Various Musings | 0

Originally posted on January 22, 2012

I haven’t written much fiction this week.

Damn shame that, because my characters have so much they want to say.

I’ve blamed it on the fact that I haven’t felt well this week. I’ve had a head and chest cold that’s made me want to sleep and do as little as possible all week long. I’ve also blamed it on the fact that spring semester classes started this week (for those of you who didn’t know, I teach college writing classes). The whole time, though, I’ve avoided blaming what I know is the real culprit.

Fear.

Yep, folks, I don’t care what anyone else tells you; writer’s block stems from fear. And I hate to even call my condition “writer’s block,” because somehow that gives it power, but I think it will help me to talk about it. And since I know at least a few writers follow my blog, maybe I can help them through their blocked moments by exploring my “condition” a little. I want to talk about causes and cures.

Dr. Jamison is in.

See, I haven’t stopped writing altogether. I’m still doing plenty of writing and, consequently, avoiding writing my current project MADversary. So this afternoon I did a little self-exploration to find the root cause. And what a surprise. It’s all based in fear.

You might be asking what I could possibly be afraid of. After all, it’s not like I’ve never written before, and it’s not like I’ve never received a bad review. So it can’t be that. And I came to one realization—this is the first non-Nicki Sosebee book I’ve taken up since beginning the Nicki series. In spite of what I’ve published (because I know it’s tempting to think I write them and then they’re immediately published after), I assure you I haven’t written anything significant since starting the Nicki Sosebee series. And it’s been a fun ride, and I’ve enjoyed the momentum. What I have been loving about Nicki is that she is so many things I am not, and exploring her world has been an adventure for me.

The protagonist of MADversary, a young woman named Megan Walker, is a little more subdued than Nicki, and it’s a little harder writing her story. But that’s still not where the fear is stemming from, I realized as I continued digging deeper.

I’m stuck writing the first sex scene.

There. I’ve said it. I feel better now.

So, again, you might be wondering, “What the hell?” I’ve written a lot of sex scenes, so it’s not like I’m afraid to go there. But I finally realized it: I’m afraid that they’ll all start to seem the same. And, again, I also think that fear is exacerbated by writing the Nicki series, because I’ve tried to make it a point to have Nicki’s so-called “sexcapades” be unique and fun without pushing the believability factor too much.

So I’m approaching this case of writer’s block the same way I have all other cases I’ve ever had since writing my first novel (one you’ll probably never see, because it’s in the bottom of a trunk, double-spaced on printer paper, next to a bunch of handwritten poems and short stories). I’m going to power through it. The only way to beat your fears is to face them. So I’ve figured out my fear and now I need to work through it. So I’m doing it one paragraph at a time.

I’ve also been working on the next Nicki book, Innocent Bystander, and that writer’s block has affected it as well. Over the last week, I’ve only written about six paragraphs between the two books. Not good, and definitely not me! So today I wrote six paragraphs in MADversary alone, and I plan to do more before the night is over. Once I get over this little hurdle, I should be fine, but I’ve got to force myself to work through it. That’s what I tell my students, and that advice is good enough for me as well. So, ta-ta! I’m going to go force myself to write another six paragraphs…and then another and another and another…

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