What difficulties do you face when you are thinking about allowing what’s in your head to be put onto a piece of paper? What is stopping you? Is it a mental block or is something stemming your flow of words or, do you find yourself doing something – heck, anything else other writing?
You can normally boil it down to one emotion that causes it:
Because it’s built-in to us as human beings. Psychological and physiological knowledge (the way the brain and body communicate) can be put to good use here, in that it can give you a few hints as to why it happens.
Today, anxiety has such a hold over us as human beings because we’ve forgotten what it was put there for. And, because we’ve forgotten, we misinterpret the sensation and turn it into something that doesn’t even relate to what it was originally designed to do – which was to help us escape the enemy.
To escape the ‘enemy’ your body transforms automatically to provide you with the 3 Fs:
Fight, Flight, Fright
Meanwhile, what enemy do we have when we want to write – apart from ourselves?
That sick sensation in the pit of our stomachs, the burning in our hearts, the uncontrollable trembling in our limbs – it’s all to do with the nervous system preparing us for what is to come. Think of this analogy:
An athlete prepares for months, years even, for that one big race that will make them an Olympic champion. They get onto the track, crouch down at the line and wait for the shot to pierce their ears so their nervous system can spring into action.
Anxiety prepares your body for that sort of thing. But, being the creative people writers are, we don’t analyse those sensations logically. Hence, we become the athlete crouched on that track, forever waiting for the gun to be fired. This is why it can make us feel confused and stupid and, in the end, not good enough. Because we don’t feel good enough we get irritated, frustrated and angry with ourselves. Then those pent up emotions get turned outwards towards the world about us and we scream a hundred and one questions to the Universe, the wall or anyone who will listen.
It’s that irritation and frustration that blanks our minds from the creativity – hence ‘writers block’ arises.
Trying to put a stop to the ‘writers block’ syndrome is one of the reasons why I wrote my book Anxiety Pangs – what they are and how to control them. In that little book, I have gathered all the information about anxiety and aim to help you understand it and how to handle it or, at least, put the emotion to good use.
I’ve often wished I could get in touch with all the writers’ who wanted to give up – particularly at the Christmas/New Year period. New Year is a time when we all create new ‘resolutions’ and goals that we feel inspired to reach. Writing a book is one of the top goals on the resolution list. However, by the following Christmas, all those writers who have been trying for a very long time, decide to give up.
If I had my way, I’d get them all together and I would give them the tools they needed so they could begin to understand the sometimes difficult process and, ultimately, for them to find another way through other options. To stop them feeling so bad about their creativity – and themselves.
- Imagine if Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, while witnessing the horrors of the trenches of WW1, gave up because he was too cold or too wet or the bombs kept interrupting his flow of words. Would ‘In Flanders Fields’ have ever been written?
- Imagine if Edison had given up on his light bulb idea because, after the 999th time of trying, he was just too darned fed up with the whole process. Would we still be writing by candlelight?
- Imagine if Sir Alan Sugar had not thought the masses worthy of his time, effort or skill to create the Amstrad PC. Would computers still be housed in 50ft by 50ft air-conditioned office spaces and not now on our laps, or even our pockets?
- Imagine if that unknown girl tasked with shredding the huge slush pile hadn’t taken a tea break and hadn’t sat down and hadn’t picked up a manuscript about a boy wizard’s adventures. Would a whole generation of children not got into the habit of reading?
If you ever feel like you want to give up on that masterpiece inside you, before you do, read my book Depression – how to help yourself through it. Writers can get depressed – heck, simply getting a rejection on the doormat.
Having written over 150 books and screenplays over the past 25 years all of which have been posted through that beautiful red Royal Mailbox, I understand that sensation when a little white envelope plops onto the doormat. As you rip it open, you pray and plead with whatever deity you believe in. And then, the answer – a rejection – can make you crash to the bottom of the pit of doom and gloom and feel like shouting to the world “Where’s the point?!”
But remember that…
Patience is a virtue.
It’s a common enough phrase, however, it’s not one normally held up as a banner while going into battle. But making an attempt to get an agent or the attention of a publisher feels like preparing for battle and patience is sorely needed. There may come a time when you reach a point where you think that patience is not your friend and your work is not good enough.
Take comfort in the fact that all writers hate some of their work. Even Virginia Woolf hated her own writing. She particularly disliked the editing process (who doesn’t?). Having to go over her manuscript again and again through many different revisions in order to get it right was a tiresome process for her.
Family and friends and teachers and tutors encourage you to write and tell you how good you are. And that’s nice. That’s commendable. But they are not the ones who are going to invest money into the project you hold so dear. Unfortunately, however well-meaning they are, they don’t have the knowledge, experience or skills to help you become the author you want to be – added to which they quite probably don’t want to hurt your feelings.