There is no writer’s block. There is no mysterious force that prevents words flowing from the mind of an author to her fingertips and onto a page. There is only willful decision, in this case a choice not to make the choices that will allow the words to flow. A conscious hesitation, a deliberate procrastination.
Why? As I’ve stated in the past, procrastination is fear. Fear of what? A fear of making the wrong decision? In fiction, a fear of sending beloved characters in a direction you will regret. In nonfiction, a fear perhaps of irrelevance – who cares what you have to say and what if you’re wrong anyway?
And of course there is the opposite fear – a fear of sending the characters in the right direction. To tell the right story, beloved Romeo and Juliet both had to die. Rhett Butler had to leave Scarlett and not give a damn. Rick had to make Ilsa get on the plane. In nonfiction, the fear of changing the world for the good. Ask Jesus and Gandhi and King how that works out.
These of course are the extremes, but the fears work themselves in similar fashion in the writer’s mind – and so the stories don’t get told and the essays don’t get written.
And the myth of writer’s block is born. The myth is that this is out of the writer’s control. What has happened in fact is that the writer has chosen to second-guess himself, to pause: He has chosen that not writing is more comfortable than making the moment by moment decisions of putting one word after another and then choosing the next one and the one beyond that.
Last summer and fall, after years of procrastination, I threw caution to the wind and told the story of The Imaginary Revolution. I wrote every day (at least until the willful hesitancy began to interfere), and then I set a deadline to compile it all into a story, and I shipped the story to the world on Bill of Right Day (Dec. 15) 2012, and I let it go.
Then, so I wouldn’t stop writing, I returned to my old friend Myke Phoenix, and in two and a half days in January revived his career in a story called The Song of the Serial Kisser, and three weeks later I completed another superhero story about Myke and the Firespiders.
And then the “writer’s block” set in. And I wondered: What am I afraid of?
None of these stories are bound for the writer’s hall of fame – although the themes of The Imaginary Revolution complete a sort of trilogy that, with Refuse to be Afraid and A Scream of Consciousness, describe the philosophy by which I’d live what I estimate to be my best life – and although I have come to care very much about the characters who inhabit Astor City, the setting of the Myke Phoenix chronicles.
So, why did I stop writing as the ideas for another, and then a second, and then a third additional Myke story began to bounce around in my brain?
Why did I stop writing as the story between The Imaginary Bomb and The Imaginary Revolution coalesced after 20 years and a possible sequel began to nibble at the edges of my consciousness?
Why did I stop writing as new ideas and new characters with new stories whispered in my ear?
What am I afraid of?
What an interesting question.
And, by the way, what is stopping you from following your own dreams and your purpose? That may be a more interesting question, especially in your mind.
Let’s explore it together.
Or best yet, I’ll start writing again, and you get started on your dream. We’ll meet up the road a ways. Deal?