Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Writer's Block and Inspiration

When you're a writer, inspiration is tricky. Of course, everyone writes in one way or another. Being a 'writer', as in someone who takes the craft much further than e-mails and post-it notes, is more than just a hobby or profession, it's a lifestyle choice. It's something you can't turn off. So even when I'm not physically in the process of writing, I'm always gathering and storing characters, plotlines, dialogue, anything that flies through the open window in my brain. But the struggle of being a writer is that the brain doesn't always connect to the fingers. Sometimes, when the flow is there, the idea isn't. Other times, the creative well is deep, but the right words don't come.

In response to this disconnect, we've invented a neat little disorder called 'Writer's Block'. The terror of the blank page, the empty well, the numb fingers that just won't dance across the keyboard or scribble down the page the way you want them to. All the phrase really means is that you aren't inspired to write in that moment. And why should you be? If the feeling isn't there, wait until it comes back. Now, this works mostly for amateur writers like me, who don't have the direct pressure of editors and publishers and all that. The level of writing I'm talking about is where you're ultimately writing for yourself. Eventually, of course, I would like the masses to read my words, and even better if I can make a living from it, but at this point, I have to write because it satisfies my soul, and because I have something I need to say.

And as soon as you do take on the label of Writer, the expectation is there. Oh, you haven't written for two weeks? Are you still a writer? Do you even care anymore? These nagging voices can exist in our heads, but they can also come externally, from friends and family members who hear the word Writer and assume you're some sort of genius who can create gold at any moment, those who maybe take the title of Writer more seriously than you even do. But if I'm writing out of pressure to fill the page, out of some obligation to live up to this title I've given myself, then who really benefits. Writing, and this goes for any kind of writing, is never as good under pressure. The best writing always comes from the 'Holy crap, I have to get to a piece of paper or a computer right now' moment, where your mind, heart, and hands are together in creative union, where this image in your head need to be tangible through the written word. Those are the real Writers, the ones who are writing out of an urge to express rather than an urge to impress.

As I see it, the reason why it's so easy to make excuses, to procrastinate, to cry Writer's Block, to avoid all the pressure of putting pen to paper, is because writing is not a necessity. Lives are not at stake here. It's an art form. Obviously, I fully respect and acknowledge that the right type of writing can create social change, even revolutions, and when the pen or the book is in the wrong hands, writing can really mess things up. But at the level I'm speaking of, the escapist fiction level, the stories that we tell to entertain, to vent and rant, to simply make us think about ourselves and the world around us, writing is not essential. So if I hold off on writing this story idea I have, the world keeps turning, people move on without any notice at all that I haven't written a story, except maybe those around me who know that I'm a Writer and are wondering where my work is. There are enough books around to already last the whole world a lifetime of reading, so what does it matter if I don't participate?
What I'm getting at is that I have to write because I want to write, because I need to participate, because I do think that the world maybe be a little more enlightened if my ideas, encased in fictional character studies, can change a mind or two. I don't have to write for you, or for them, I have to write because it's my own choice. And the actual writing is really only half of it. I'm comfortable with the Writer label because I think like a writer, constantly analyzing, reading into subtext, watching for moments that could translate well into a scene.

I see the world as a story, or more appropriately volumes and volumes of stories, just waiting to be found, recognized, and told. I need to capture these moments and work them into my own subconscious, remember the details, so that when it does come time to sit in front of the computer, when the feeling comes and I have all the time I need, there will be something to draw upon. Writing isn't something you turn on or off, it doesn't break down or get jammed, you can't upgrade to a better version, it's something to have to nurture, cultivate, and never neglect. To me, Writer's Block just means that you forgot, even for a second, the reason that you write in the first place: because it feels good to tell a story.

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