So You Want to be a Starving Artist: Writer’s Block, Thy Name Is…

So I’ve been thinking lately about writer’s block. I’ve read some interviews discussing it, and everyone agrees that it’s a pain. I’ve talked about it before, but after mulling it over, I actually think it comes in different forms. Schedules, distractions, illness, mind freeze, need to meet a deadline on something else…there are so many things that can keep an author from working on certain projects. I will admit at times it’s me procrastinating or just needing some time for me (because honestly, what human these days actually takes enough time for themselves), but really, there’s more going on than just the doomed phrase writer’s block. So, in an effort to understand this phenomenon, I’m making a list…

High expectations – For me, I have to be careful of the almighty TO DO list. I write them because I like to keep track, but they tend to make me stop faster than a deer on a highway confronted by bright lights. My lists stalk me, constantly reminding me of all that I have yet to do and accomplish. I’ve had to really work at easing up on myself, because if I’m in a self-critical mood, no writing is going to get done.

Distractions – I’m working on this one. I will admit that sometimes I’ll move things up my list to prevent that thing I’m nervous about working on…I also tend to get distracted by social media or cats on the internet at certain times (though I can equally tune these out if I have to). I definitely get distracted by a certain cat on my keyboard half of the time, but he likes to help and it only becomes a problem if he’s in his ‘don’t move AT ALL I just got comfortable’ moods.

Deadlines – Oh my god oh my god oh my god I have to get this done what if I don’t get this done I really need to work on this but I can’t because I suck oh my god I need to do this okay I can do this, but what if I can’t do this…you get the idea.

The type of thing I’m supposed to be writing – This is where my creative life is a contradiction in terms. I love anthologies and genre magazines. I love writing for them. I’m always flattered when I’m recommended for something or something is pointed out to me as a potentially good fit. Thus begins the process of me freaking out over a low word count and/or trying to telepathically divine what the editor means when they say they want a certain thing. What I consider horror/scifi/post-apoc/urban fantasy/etc isn’t always what people have in mind, even if I’m positive I’m following the guidelines to the letter. This usually means I freak myself out completely until right before the deadline, then I churn something out because the only thing I can focus on is getting it done. This isn’t a process I enjoy by any means, because it’s way too stressful for something like this, so I’m working to improve my tactics.

What world am I working on again? – I will admit there are times when I’m just torn too much on what I want to be working on (usually when I don’t have looming deadlines). Sometimes this crosses with having multiple deadlines so I take some time for me to stop my brain from breaking and things get REALLY fun.

Thinking of too many things at once – My brain is always at least one project ahead at times, but things really get sticky when I suddenly remember all the ideas that I’ve ever had and wouldn’t they be so awesome if only I could get this thing done and oh man is my life expectancy even going to account for everything I want to do and shouldn’t I just be getting down to it but what about this other thing….yeah. Welcome to my brain.

The cat sitting on my wrists – some days this is just fine, or if I can get him to perch on my shoulder (yes, this totally happens), then all is well. But if he doesn’t want my hands to move, things get a little difficult…especially because he’s just as strong-willed as me. Equally distracting when he climbs back and forth over the keyboard. However, I can’t help but think that this is some new form of strength training and I will have super duper no carpal tunnel syndrome ever as I age because of it.

Having to go back and research/restructure – If it’s a story/project of my own devising, and some point I usually reach a point where I either need to get some outside info or I need to go back and restructure the plot to work better or account for a really great idea I’ve had. This doesn’t mean the rest of the plot stops or pauses…my brain is usually bombarded by both at once. It’s like existing at two points in time (the points being that past and future parts of the story) plus being an experiment of quantum physics since I inhabit not only those two points in the story’s timeline but that world and my own real world at the same time (unless I’m working on any theatrical projects, in which case I’m inhabiting three or four worlds and two or more points in time). And people wonder why I look like a train wreck after I’ve been writing sometimes.

People looming around me asking what I’m working on, staring at me, or asking me every time I turn around how the writing is going – I know some people are cool with this, but I find it really, really nerve-wracking. The only one allowed to loom over the lap top is the cat, and if he’s grumpy even my furry muse is negotiable.

Life gets in the way – nuff said.

Life really, really gets in the way – This would be massive illness, a huge block up of things in my real life schedule, family things, unforeseen tragedies, or anything having to do with my computer blowing up.

TV suddenly looks really good, I haven’t interacted with people in forever, I haven’t read anything in a while, or I just really, really need sleep – Again, nuff said.

Grungetta rears her head – For those who remember old school Sesame Street, Grungetta was Oscar the Grouch’s girlfriend. She was hilarious in a mean, snide, pointing out other’s problems kinda way. I hate copping to self-inflicted misery or those moments where I’m wondering if anything I’m putting on paper is any good, so I figure calling my inner temper tantrums or moments of low self esteem Grungetta at least makes it all  more amusing.

My point is, there are actual names for the things that give me block – and I’m sure there’s more where these came from. These just seem to be the main culprits. Some of them I’m trying to work through so they’re not huge problems, and others I just have to take a deep breath and wait until they’ve left me alone.

So for all the writers out there, what are the names of your writer’s block?

5 thoughts on “So You Want to be a Starving Artist: Writer’s Block, Thy Name Is…

  1. Very funny, and accurate, post. I especially liked: What world am I working on again? as sometimes the sheer weight of all the half constructed universes I once worked on is enough to stop me dead. ><

    1. Thanks! Yeah, I definitely ping pong hardcore between worlds and plots…it gets a little frustrating at times, especially if I have to be working on something for a deadline

  2. Aha! I identify which so many of these. I love it and I feel your pain. Yikes, it’s nice to see it laid out so honestly and so clearly; your brain and mine could be matched pairs!

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