Christie Craig on Writer’s Block
- By: Jessica Faust | Date: Jul 02 2008
Fact or Fiction?
We’ve seen them played out in the movies, such as Stranger Than Fiction and The Muse. I don’t think there’s a writer alive who hasn’t given these questions some thought.
And what questions are those?
Does writer’s block really exist? Are writers dependent upon whims or what some so frequently refer to as their muses to be productive and successful writers? Can our talent, or means of livelihood, be yanked from our clutches by things we cannot control?
It’s a debatable subject, one I’ve discussed with numerous other writers over numerous glasses of Merlot. I’ve heard the stories of writer’s block preventions: lucky rabbit foots, sprinkling desks with holy water, of odd, sometimes bizarre, rituals repeated daily to show honor to so-called muses.
Of course, I have my own rituals. I stumble out of my bed, pour a cup of cinnamon half decaf/half peel-me-off-the-ceiling java, find my way to my office, still in my pajamas, mind you, hair only finger-combed and . . . here’s the most important part, I plop my butt in the chair and start to work.
Personally, I think writer’s block and those so-called muses are a tad more fiction that fact. Why?
It goes back to my childhood. Yup, I come from the age when we blame everything on our parents. However, Dad won’t threaten to disinherit me for this one. You see, my dad was a plumber. He got up every day and went to work. Never, not once, do I ever recall him saying, “I can’t plumb today. I have plumber’s block.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, I know there were days he plumbed better than others. Days his job was crappy. (And I don’t mean he literally dealt with crap, but hey, he unclogged toilets, so . . .) And as a writer, I have days I write better than others, and days I question my ability to write even a grocery list.
But do I believe it’s because my muse packed his bags and ran off to count zebra stripes in Africa? (And I say “his” because if I had a muse, he would look like Johnny Depp—he’d also love to do massages, and do housework without being asked. Hey, this is my fantasy, leave it alone.) Do I believe it’s because I’ve suddenly been struck by the ominous fate of writer’s block? Oh, heck no.
I guess I refuse to believe that this thing I do, called writing, is all based on luck, on some supernatural power, and not on the years I spent toiling, studying, and learning craft. If I was a baseball player, I wouldn’t feel as if I had to grab my crotch, wear the same dirty socks, or chew the same tobacco to win a game.
But now that I’ve told you what I don’t believe, let me tell you what I do believe. I do believe in burn-out. It is something brain surgeons, garbagemen, and even plumbers can face when they don’t take the time to live a well-rounded life.
I believe when I’m no longer inspired about a project, I’ve probably written myself into a corner and if I go back and reread, I’ll find the scene where I took a wrong turn. Or maybe I just need to take a day off. Yeah, days off are good.
I believe there is sometimes a fine line between being obsessed and being determined.
I believe that writers who stop living life and only write about it will eventually become uninspired writers.
I believe this career and the challenges that it takes to even get published can be a hard pill to swallow, and one needs to find ways to stay motivated. And if it means grabbing your crotch and wearing dirty socks and having a spittoon by your desk, then so be it. Doing things to stay motivated is different from doing things to prevent yourself from being robbed of a talent for which you’ve worked and earned.
So what about you? Do you believe and shudder at the thought of writer’s block? Do you fear and pray your muse will never abandon you? What do you do when you find yourself suddenly uninspired?
Christie Craig’s book Weddings Can Be Murder hit the bookstands May 27th. Check out her regular Tuesday Blog at Killer Fiction, her website, and her website for writers about writing at Write With Us Online.