Writer’s Block?

I don’t get the whole “writer’s block” thing. I mean, I understand this concept that a writer’s creativity can go through ebbs and flows, but it’s often referred to as though it were some kind of affliction.

Someone asked me the other day how my writing was going, and I answered, “Slowly,” because, well, I tend to write slowly, with lots of revisions as I go. His response was, “Oh, writer’s block, huh?”

“No, it’s not writer’s block,” I snapped back, like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop when one of the students tells him he has a brain tumor because he complained of a headache. (“It’s not a tumor!”)

In his book On Writing Well William Zinsser explains the process of writing as nothing more than problem solving. He refers specifically to non-fiction, but the same applies to fiction. How should the story unfold – linear or non-linear; chronologically or through a series of flashbacks or both? What’s the best way to express a particular idea – through narrative, action, or dialogue? What’s the best path of events from point A to point B? What word(s) works best to say what I want to say? What the heck is the story about? The “problems” go on and on.

My biggest challenge comes in the form of transitions. Before I start physically writing, I have outlined the beginning, middle and end, as well as key scenes of my novel’s plot. The “transitions” are everything in between – exposition, character development, settings – and I strive to make them as smooth and seamless as possible. I don’t like clunky writing.

In any case, none of these problems or challenges are blockages. Rather, they are part of the method of getting all the elements to a novel – character, plot, dialogue, theme, etc. – into a coherent, cohesive form on paper (or screen, if you prefer).

I mentioned in a previous post that I spend a good deal of time thinking about what I’m going to write before actually writing it. To non-writers this appears that my creativity has dried up and I’ve been stricken with that seemingly incurable disease “writer’s block.” To other writers, I hope they see it as, “Oh, he’s just working out the details.”

Not counting the book I’m currently working on, I’ve got a pretty good idea what my next eight novels are going to be. What are all their titles, characters, plot points, and themes? I don’t know, I haven’t worked out all the details. Yet. But, in my best Austrian-bodybuilder accent, I say, “It’s not writer’s block!”

Gordon Gravley

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