No Such Thing as Writer’s Block

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This is the third time in 25 days when I’ve sat down to write and drew a blank.

A lot of people might walk away from the keyboard to go make an ice cream sundae or call out for a pizza, hoping that the muse will arrive with the delivery driver. Not that I’m above those things, mind you.

What usually happens in my case is, out of nowhere, I need to know whether or not my car has a catalytic converter, the population of Belarus, what year did Zsa Zsa Gabor die, or two synonyms for the word “usurp”.

Some writers can keep this going for days or weeks or months or years. They call it Writer’s Block.  On behalf of my beloved Method Writing creator and teacher, Jack Grapes, I’m here to tell you that THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS WRITER’S BLOCK.

First off, let’s have a look at the language itself: Writer’s block. That sounds like a troll with a boot on your neck, standing on the bridge of your creativity, demanding a tariff that you could never pay in a million years. You’re not going to give away your power so easily, are you? Remember: The Pen is Mightier than the Troll. Get back to work.

Jack taught us that by simply practicing the Method Writing processes, we are writing. Sure, something might emerge: A beautiful string of words. A springboard into another idea. A glimpse of something to come. A glimmer of inspiration. But that’s not why you’re writing. You’re not attached to the product. You’re practicing a process that might lead to a product. You’re writing because you’re a writer.

Showing up consistently at the page or the computer could easily lead to a product:  a short story connected to something long forgotten, a memoir you’ve always wanted to write, a poem. Wait! A poem? I’m not a poet! a monologue for the screenplay you’re working on, a personal insight that changes your life forever.

Or maybe you’d get nothing like this at all. No matter. You showed up to the page, kept an appointment with your purpose, did your work for the day, and that’s enough.

Jack always told us that “inspiration is for amateurs”. And he’s right.

Consider the following scenarios:

You have an absessed tooth that’s kept you up for three nights with unrelenting pain and throbbing that no medicine can abate. You’ve managed to get in to see your dentist the following morning, first thing.

The next day, hopeful that your suffering will soon be over and by this time, thinking of your dentist as your personal lord and savior, you show up for your appointment to find the door locked and the lights off. You see a note taped to the door, written on the doctor’s personal letterhead:

“GREETINGS! We’re so very sorry to report that Dr. Zachary is unable to see patients today. He called at dawn to tell the office manager that he’s “just not feeling it” and that he thinks he might have a bad case of Dental Block. Therefore, we are unable to tell you exactly – or, if ever – Dr. Zachary will be resuming his duties.”

You sputter into your mechanic with every light on your dashboard illuminated, your car spitting, twisting, lunging like Christine. Heading for the office, you encounter a cardboard sign penned with a black Sharpie:

“All my guys came down with Mechanic’s Block overnight. I’ve been in business 45 years and have never seen it this bad. I could prolly fix your car but, come to think of it, I haven’t been inspired at all for the past 10 years so I went home myself. Try Lyft, why dontcha?”

You drive into your parking garage and wave at Jimmy who’s been working in that upright coffin of a booth for over a year. You get your ticket, park your car, and return to it at 5:00, ready to go home after a grueling day sitting in a cubicle the size of your bathroom closet looking at a computer screen in the dark.

You expect to see Jimmy still standing in the exact, same spot you found him eight hours earlier. What your bleary eyes see instead is a message written in pencil in Jimmy’s broken English on the back of an old homework assignment from his ESL class:

“I sorry for yoo trubble. I haf to go hoem. My inspirashin for this job has go. Maybee it nevr come backs. I hop you kin git outa here.

Yor frend.

Jimmy”

Over the years, there have been large swaths of time when I wasn’t writing. But I never, ever said that I had writer’s block. Why put a hex like that on yourself? YIKES!

And I never felt bad about the times when I wasn’t writing or made excuses for it, either. I had chosen not to write. And I always knew that throughout those periods when I wasn’t writing, I was preparing for the day when I would write again.

So don’t get up and walk away from yourself. Keep pushing through. You’ve got a billion random thoughts going through your head all day long. Start writing those down. See where it goes. Put on a piece of music that makes you feel sad or happy or nothing. Start there. Google “writing prompts” and pick one. Get that pen moving!

If you walk away prematurely because you need to be “good” and demand that everything you write be headed straight to the New York Times bestseller list, you might just miss out on the genie emerging from the bottle with a special gift just for you.

Writing is a skill. It’s a craft. It’s an art form. It needs attention, care, compassion, dedication, patience, time. If you’re not writing because you don’t want to write, just say, “I don’t want to write.” Don’t victimize yourself with some imaginary barrier. Or block.

In closing, remember: there’s no such thing as writer’s block.

Don’t tell yourself that there is because literally, nothing will come out of it.

You’re a writer. Just write. Or don’t.

Either way, it’s your choice.

Penultimate

Earlier today, after sharing a lengthy conversation with a man and his wife at Alon’s,  swapping stories of caregiving, death,

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