*All images taken from Google under usage labeled for reuse
From John Steinbeck and Toni Morrison to Rumaan Alam and Nora Ephron, from old to new, famous writers and authors have not only trashed the idea of writer’s block but they have also called it fiction, a question that hasn’t been solved yet and a concept that is most definitely a lie.
Ray Bradbury, author of classics like Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles and probably the greatest American sci-fi writer of the 20th century (apologies to the Big Three!) once said in “Telling the Truth” that he never gets writer’s block because he knows what he wants to write. Actually, his precise words were this:
“Well, it’s obvious you’re doing the wrong thing, aren’t you?… You’re being warned, aren’t you? Your subconscious is saying I don’t like you anymore. You’re writing about things I don’t give a damn for… If you have writers’ block you can cure it this evening by stopping what you’re doing and writing something else. You picked the wrong subject.”
Writing is a simple process. You do what you want to do and that’s the end of it. But has it ever really been that simple for writers? Far from being so, many writers, especially the new ones who have arrived on the scene with dreamy eyes and hopes of winning the next Booker, have constantly struggled to express themselves and have often had a hard time finding the right voice, their voice.
They turn into writers of insignificance, writers of sub-par literature, artists who will never find a place in the cognitive shelf of distinct literary voices. And it is the saddest thing for a creator to have been forgotten even after his death, a time when an artist is truly born.
And for those writers, I have one simple piece of advice – STOP WRITING!
“Writer’s block is a fiction. That’s not to say I always feel like writing, or that I have some big idea percolating. I don’t know if you can force out good sentences or great ideas, but that doesn’t mean you cannot write. You can always write garbage; goodness knows, I write plenty of that.”Rumaan Alam in an interview for Lit Hub
I am well aware of how blunt, acerbic, cruel and discouraging this advice is but I am not in the least mortified by my feelings. Because it is downright honest and that is usually what truth sounds like. I am also not embarrassed to admit that I am the undiscovered author of only one book (and that too self-help!), which clearly does not give me the license to subjugate the sufferings of literary stalwarts like Leo Tolstoy (my favourite short-story writer), Virginia Woolf (I share my birthday with her!), and JK Rowling (my guru).
But on closer inspection, the observations are not only startling but illuminating as well and help bury the myth of writer’s block once and for all. You see, Tolstoy wrote books with plots more complex than Brexit that were determined by colourful characters whose moral compass were driven by the writer’s own perception of life. Such intricate literature requires time and patience, but more importantly, it necessitates the need for frequent breaks to savour the written word. Woolfe, on the other hand, suffered frequently from severe depression (“Dearest, I feel certain that I am going mad again….”) and that is what caused the so-called “writer’s block”. And as for Rowling, she was going through a terrible lawsuit (you know, one of those where people were trying to steal Harry Potter).
“I disavow that term… When I wrote Beloved, I thought about it for three years. I started writing the manuscript after thinking about it… But those other three years I was still at work, though I hadn’t put a word down.Toni Morrison in a 1994 interview
There is enough evidence to prove that mental blocks in creativity is caused almost always by external factors and never by the creative process per se. For a writer to say they can’t write because they have run out of creativity is like saying the sun won’t shine because it has run out of sunshine! The sun needs to shine and creatives need to create. That is how it is and that is how it always will be. PERIOD.
Because if not then the universe is bound to collapse.
Writing, like every other art, is a compulsion that needs to be fulfilled, like your cat that buggers the crap out of you at 3 in the morning, or like good ol’ Trump being Trump on Twitter (and pretty much everywhere else!). But if you sleep well at night without having the NEED to put words on paper (or having to deal with your cat’s theatrics) then congratulations! you’re not a writer. And you have been forever spared from the hauntings of the unwritten unexpressed words.
Alas, things are much bleaker for those unlucky souls smitten by language and literature. And the only way to ease the discomfort is, of course, by letting some of those words loose. It’s like taking a dump! There’s only so much that our body can tolerate and at some point of time we need to let go…literally. I know it’s a shitty analogy but that’s how I’ve always felt about the words churning inside me. In the months that led up to completing my first book, I was a restless man, always jittery and scared about this thing inside me, like I was the unlucky host of an alien parasite in a cheap sci-fi plot.
“Writer’s block is a load of nonsense—I’ve always been a bit suspicious of it. It’s more likely to be a symptom of depression or maybe they’ve just got nothing interesting to say. Using your imagination to create a work of fiction involves exercising the mind and the more you do it, the more adept you become.”Alexander McCall Smith in an interview with The Daily Mail
But despite this feeling, the entire process of conceiving an idea and writing a book has taught me one great thing: be obsessed with the process of creation and you shall be blissful…and peaceful. I remember how satisfied I felt every time I sat down and wrote the words, easing my discomfort and letting me sleep for the minimum number of hours. And even though what I wrote was complete crap (there I go again!), I was happy they were on paper. Then there was the process of editing, finding the right words, plugging plot holes, and more importantly, writing the book that was inside me. Finally, when the product was finished and I landed a contract with Hay House India, I slept like a baby that night, as if I had just been born and did not know the madness of the world.
If you know what you want to write and if you are really passionate about the written word and have an orgasm with every syllable, line, sentence, and paragraph that is of your making, then no writer’s block, or roadblock, or curfew or whatever fancy excuse you come up with, can stop you, ever, from expressing yourself.