Monday, 3 February 2014

Major Blockage

Readers, writers & followers alike, I'm back. Thank you for waiting a whole month for my latest post, chapter five of Duke Forever. I told everyone that I would be taking a break from writing then I'd come back after a Duke Forever Christmas Special and continue where I left off. However, the astute amongst you have probably realized by now that it's February, and I said that I wanted to write this before Christmas then return in the next month. So where have I been for the last Thirty Days? Well, I'm afraid that I've been waylaid by unforeseen circumstances. The Word of the Day is: 'BLOCK'.

Block /blok/ n. 1. A solid mass of wood, stone, metal, etc. 2. A child's building block. 3. a mould on which something is shaped, e.g.: a hat block. 4. Qld One of the wooden supports for a house built above ground. 5. A piece of wood used for engraving. 6. Printing A letterpress printing plate mounted on a base. 7. A (wooden) bench or board for chopping, beheading, etc. 8. Mechanics a. A device of one or more grooved pulleys mounted in the casing or shell to which a hook or the like is attached, used for transmitting power, changing the direction of motion, etc. b. A casing or shell holding a pulley. 9. Pathology An obstruction, as of a nerve. 10. Sport the stopping of an opponent's actions or course. 11. A quantity, portion, or section taken as unit: block of tickets. 12. Australian A section of land, often in a suburb, for building a house on, etc.: A block of land, a building block. 13. A group of city or town buildings enclosed by intersecting streets. 14. One large building, divided into offices, apartments, etc.: An office block, a block of flats. 15. Also, starting block. Athletics One of a pair of supports for feet, used by a sprinter to give more power from a crouching start. 16. writer's block. A temporary condition in which a writer finds it impossible to proceed with the writing of a novel, play, or other work.
{Show/Hide - more meanings}

On Wednesday, January 8th, 2014 -  just one week into the new year - my grandmother had a heart attack. An occlusion of the major ventricle into the heart. See, 'occlusion' is a fancy word for blockage; my grandmother's heart was essentially choking on cholesterol, from 70+ years of eating cakes and not enough vegetables.
Now, please don't worry, my grandmother is alive. Of that I am truly thankful, I love my Nanna and I've even talked about her on this blog before; she's awesome and old school. But she's very old, so even after the block was removed and a stint was put in place to keep the weakened vessel working, the doctors had a lot of trouble getting her on the right track to healing. She spent a stressful two weeks in hospital, and throughout that time all of my aunts and uncles flew in to see her and a few stayed at my house.
Then, when she finally came out of hospital, Nanna came to stay with us and we took care of her for a week. She's doing well, but I was helping to cook "heart smart" meals, and I'd keep her company on occasion or make sure she was exercising.
That is, until a week ago, when my Aunt Meshell offered to care for her for a while, so although I'm still concerned, I feel as though a weight's been lifted off my shoulders.

So let me first say to all you people, try to stay healthy. My grandmother's diet was not atrocious - and she's not fat - but it just built up over time. When my mother called the ambulance they arrived in four minutes, but the doctor said that it was a close call and they saved her "just in time". And Nanna often says of the experience: It felt like I was dying.
I'd never wish that on anyone, so I'm just saying, try to be healthy.

But on another note, I want to talk to the writers. Because, you see, although my Nanna was in hospital I was still trying to write for this blog. It's not that I was ignoring family obligations or anything so harsh. When I got a spare hour or two to myself, often at the end of the day, I would sit down and try to write because writing tends to take my mind off of things, and I thought it would help to relieve some of the stress of this situation. However, every time I sat down to write, I found myself coming up empty. Drawing a blank. My mind was just "nope, not happening". It was a textbook case of Writer's Block.
For me, it was so frustrating. I just wanted to take my mind off of the stress of the day, but my mind was refusing. Thankfully, I could chat to my Beloved and we'd talk it out, so I wasn't broiling in anxiety and worry, but I still felt gutted that even my free time was spent feeling lost. All I wanted to do was to write a story, was that so much to ask?

Well, as it turns out, it was. See, I've done some research into Writer's Block recently, and I've come to learn something very important. See, although we come to see Writer's Block as some grand mysterious force, almost like a force of nature that we can never comprehend, I've learned recently that Writer's Block has a face. See, while we call it "writer's block", that's merely a nickname. It's real name is Fear.
Sometimes writer's block is when a writer runs out of ideas. But that's not real writer's block, that's just being silly. Why would you try to write something if you don't have any idea what to write?
However, when we sit before that quill & paper; that notebook & pen; that keyboard & monitor - and we have a story to tell, but it refuses to be written, it's most often due to fear, anxiety, worry or stress. Now, in general, this is caused by our fears about our own ability, or the calibre of the story:
  "Am I even capable of writing a romance story?"
  "I've only ever written fanfiction, can I even write something original?"

  "What if everyone hates it?"
  "How can I write a novel if I've only ever written short stories before?"
  "Is this a good idea, or am I just deluding myself?"
So while we sit there, with the story in mind. Even if we know what has to happen next, we draw a blank. Our mind doesn't take that next step and put it into words. Because we are scared of doing it wrong. I've mentioned some of this before in Perfect Page Paradox, but in that post, my solution was to a specific problem and I offered a few simple tricks to get over the problem.
However, Writer's Block is a slightly different beast. Sure, you can trick yourself into writing with tricks, but even though I write almost every day, I found myself afflicted by the condition during a moment of family-related stress. So I figure it should be tackled with a different approach.

You need to find what it is that is truly holding you back. What is the basis of your fear. For me, it was not just general anxiety caused by my Nanna, but it was that feeling of insecurity. I lost faith in myself, since someone so close to me had been hurt and I could do nothing about it. That reflected on my writing ability, since I no longer felt secure in my ability to take control of my own words. I also felt like I was writing a bad story, it seemed insignificant in the face of my real-world issues.
I overcame my fear by talking to my girlfriend. She helped me to regain my confidence and encouraged me to continue. This wasn't an immediate cure, I was still overcome by anxiety, but with her helped I went from writing nothing every day, to writing a sentence every day. Then three sentences. Then a paragraph & finally I managed to finish the story at the end of the month.

So those are the two things you need to keep in mind if you're fighting your own writer's block:
1. Find the Heart of the Matter: Look into your own situation, look at your abilities and find out what's really holding you back. More often than not for amateurs, it's insecurity due to inexperience. For older writers, it might be mental exhaustion or external stresses. Don't deal with surface details, go right to the centre of your fear and fight it head on.
2. Don't Rush, Wait it Out: There isn't a magic pill you can take to cure writer's block; the treatment isn't medication, it's meditation and it takes time. I found that I had to talk it out, calm down and regain my self-confidence; your treatment might be sleeping earlier, eating healthier or using your free time to relax. If your stress is caused by external forces - a break-up, depression, trouble at home or sickness - often the only solution is to wait for it to be dealt with before moving on.
If you rush into writing before you're ready, you will just tire yourself out and it will take longer to get back into writing. So just take the time your time, and remember: You will get over it, eventually.

If you've ever suffered - or are suffering - from writer's block, let someone know. Writing is so often solitary, so we feel like we have to deal with these problems on our own; But you don't. If I had tried to figure this out on my own, you'd be waiting another month for Chapter Five.
Granted, there are different solutions for different people, and I can't guarantee this will help you, so don't go talking to people unless you think it will help. But if you do think it's the right decision, I encourage you to talk to someone, especially a fellow writer if you know one, but you can also reach out to friends or family. Or, if you really want, you could talk to me, I do have a comments section, if you want to get in touch . . .
I guarantee that there is a way for you to get over whatever is holding you back, be patient and you will find it.

Until next time, I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and I'm back!

1 comment:

  1. It's a relief that Nanna is doing better. She is a tough, strong woman, and a lodestone in the family. And I agree; sometimes writer's block takes more than just powering through the day, or taking long walks.


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