Learning to let go as a writer when I have writer’s block is one of the biggest challenges I face every time I pick up a pen or open up my laptop. It’s something I’m struggling with right now as I sit here trying to write out my Sunday blog post. I should have had this post up on the blog hours ago, and now be well into working on my prologue. But it took me quite some time to even think of what I would write about, and now I’m doing what I do best: procrastinating. I’ve cleaned my room, washed my hair, drank coffee, browsed the internet and now I am staring at the screen wondering how to continue on with the post. I don’t know how to convey what’s on my mind in this post I’m writing, and on another level I’m putting it off to delay working on my prologue, because I’m stuck on how to move forward. Writer’s block is the bane of my life sometimes.
I think a lot of writers struggle with the whole idea of ‘letting go’ when they are writing. Being picky in your writing can be a good thing, but it can also lead to you hitting a creative wall if you focus on getting it right first time around too much. In school and university I was the worst for editing my essays as I went along. I didn’t believe in first and second drafts. The editing had to be done there and then, no excuses. And if I battled with it somewhat while doing schoolwork, the challenge is ten times greater when I work on my own writing, be it a blog post, and especially my novel idea. In many ways, I am a laid back person. But when it comes to working on my writing, I am the most uptight perfectionist imaginable. I go from being the shoulder shrugging, nonchalant girl to the one pulling her hair out in frustration at not being able to find the right words.
To be a writer is to understand that sometimes you won’t get it right the first time around. I have written paragraphs that I am exceedingly proud of on my first attempt, and I have written ones that are in desperate need of redoing. But it is impractical for me to think that I can successfully finish a novel if I continue to constantly question and change everything I write down. I need to learn that it is okay to say my character was ‘very happy’ when the words ‘ecstatic’ or ‘overjoyed’ wouldn’t come to mind, because it’s only a rough draft, not the one I would send away to a publishers. I have to accept that it’s alright to name my character ‘Jane’ until I can figure out what I really want to call her. There’s nothing wrong with getting it wrong, as long as you don’t let the important people see it when it’s wrong.
And I believe that the inability to let go as a writer causes a terrible snowball effect. Just the other day I was inspired to write; a creative moment seized me, and for the next few hours I wrote page after page, losing myself in my plot line. The next day when I woke to pick up where I had finished off, I found that a roadblock was in my mind. I’ve reached a point in my story where I need to tie up some loose ends before I can carry on. The only problem is that that one seemingly small obstacle leads to me feeling unable to write out one sentence. My imagination digs its heels in, and nothing can get past the barrier that it throws up.
The most frustrating thing about it is the backlog of ideas that form in mind. They’ve gone beyond forming an orderly queue in my imagination to being a tumbling mess that I have to sort through. Like so many other writers, I can visualise exactly what it is that I want to say. I can see the characters I want to describe as though they were right here in front of me, and I can imagine scenarios in my head that play out perfectly until I try and write them down.
Writing is one of the simplest joys for me. When it goes well, it has an incredibly calming yet invigorating feeling for me. It makes me feel alive, and happy. I’ve struggled with writer’s block and letting go time and time again. When you’re in the middle of a creative dry spell, it can seem as though you’ll never escape it. You start to think that your ideas will just wither away into nothing. The most important thing to do when this feeling overcomes you is to keep trying. I am being a dreadful hypocrite right now, I am fully aware of that fact. But I’ve found that running away from your writing is honestly the worst thing you can do. The longer you leave it, the bigger the monster grows, and the harder it becomes to let go. The best thing you can do is try your best to write something down, even it’s completely different to what you’re supposed to be focusing on. Write a short story, or let a ‘what if’ scenario play out on the page. Write out something you’ve already written from another character’s perspective. The most important thing to do is to try and write anything.
If all else fails, I try and find inspiration somewhere. I’ll listen to music, talk to people, or just sit and day-dream. Reading other people’s work can help as well, although sometimes it can just lead to various levels of envy that they managed to write a novel before you.
And sometimes, I’ll go back and read my own work, to remind myself that writer’s block is an obstacle I can get around.