I’ve only seen the movie Pitch Perfect once (unheard of, I know), but one of the funniest moments in my opinion was when Brittany Snow’s character was confessing to her fellow singers that she had “The Nodes.” My sister is a singer, so I know that vocal nodes are actually quite serious and nothing to laugh at, but her delivery was priceless and I cracked up.
I think that every branch of the creative and performing arts has some version of “The Nodes.” I’m not really sure what actors’ or artists’ might be, for for writers, it’s The Block – Writer’s Block, that is.
At one time or another, every writer has experienced writer’s block. I’ve had some writers tell me that it’s the reason they quit working on their manuscript. “I have writer’s block and I can’t get past it. I can’t write. I bet Stephen King never gets writer’s block.”
That might be a poor example, because I feel like if there’s one person in the world who has more than enough weird and twisted ideas to last him a lifetime, it’s Stephen King, but you know what I’m trying to say.
It’s easy to believe that Writer’s Block = Failure. If you have writer’s block, then there’s clearly something wrong with you and you’re not meant to write, but that’s simply not the case. Writer’s block is a pain, but it’s also, unfortunately, an inevitable part of life as a writer. And when you think about it, of course you’re going to experience some kind of setback. This story is precious to you and you want it to be perfect. If what you’re writing is, in your mind, less than perfect, then it’s going to be difficult to go on. If you know where the story’s going but you’re not sure how to get there, then you’ll probably drive yourself crazy trying to figure it out.
The key is not to let writer’s block intimidate you or scare you away. If you give me a copy of Cemetery Tours, I can go through and highlight every single part that I struggled through, that I rewrote ten times over, that made me think I was just the lousiest writer ever. The good (or bad news) is that writing your manuscript is actually the smallest and least stressful part of writing and publishing a book. It doesn’t matter if the first manuscript sucks, because guess what? You are going to read and read and reread that manuscript over and over and over again while you’re editing. But the best thing about editing is that it’s like endless second chances to make a great book.
The only cure to writer’s block is to keep writing. Even if you have to force yourself to press your fingers to the keys, keep writing. Heck, you can even skip the part that’s giving you trouble and write what you know, then find a way to connect the two. Once you’re finished, printing off the manuscript and reading it on paper instead of on a computer screen present a whole different perspective and experience. It’s so much easier to read and edit and to make sense of things when you have the paper in your hands as opposed to scrolling mindlessly through a word document.
Writer’s block is very real and it’s a huge nuisance, but it is NOT invincible. No matter how much it threatens, do not let it overcome you. Write your way through. You’ll be glad you did.