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Staging a Coup Against Writer’s Block

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Although I often suffer from its opposite, verbal diarrhea — that most unfortunate state in which mediocre words indiscriminately pour forth — no writer is a stranger to the dreaded squeak of the brain valve shutting off that is writer’s block.

My lexical obstruction often stems from the anxiety that what I create won’t be groundbreaking. On bleak days, I suffer from premonitions of shame — the nagging foreknowledge that what I’m fervently typing away at won’t be something that will cause me to beam. Yet I find that in writing, as in life, that stranglehold of perfectionism will only assure that I create less, both qualitatively and quantitatively.

In my bouts of blockage, the act of going on is what is commonly referred to as a leap of faith; but on a deeper level, it’s what Kierkegaard (the originator of the concept) actually called it, a leap to faith. You don’t leap with knowledge that everything will be okay; rather, the great hope on the other side of the leap is faith itself.

The concept is so stunning, not because it is without doubt, but because it exists in the face of it. You will never stop having writer’s block, but you do have to take that writing leap, even when you have no faith that you’ll reach the other side of tour de force. In the end, the coup you stage is not against the block, but against your own voice that whispers, “You don’t have it in you.”

Abstract concepts aside, the single most effective laxative that I’ve found to combat textual constipation is stubbornness. You just have to storm past it, treating it as though it isn’t even there. How do you do this? By never allowing yourself to stop writing, even if you fear that it’s a load of hooey that will culminate in kindling; even if all you’re writing over and over is, “I’m a hack,” you must keep on going. Sure, your output might look a little like Jack Torrance’s in The Shining from time to time, but you’re a writer; you’re allowed to be a little screwy.

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About Caroline Hagood

  • http://corp-minamiji.typepad.com Christy Corp-Minamiji

    Caroline, once again, you’ve hit the nail on the head. It’s always good to be reminded that we all go “there” from time to time.

  • http://carolinehagood.typepad.com/ Caroline Hagood

    Thanks, Christy. Oh we go there alright. The question is getting back.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/cindal-lee-heart/ Cindal Lee Heart

    This is perfect, thank you so much for this. I am going to print this out and put it on my wall right past my computer. For when my writer’s block rears it’s little head out- I can read this and hopefully will it away. :)

  • http://carolinehagood.typepad.com/ Caroline Hagood

    I’m happy to hear that. I hope it helps you soldier on.