it on Writerís Block
By Cheryl Bolen
The dog ate my homework.
My great grandmother died.
I was attacked by a 24-hour virus.
And, oh yeah, Iím suffering from writerís block.
The much-maligned writerís block is a lame excuse for lack of
focus. Iím here to promulgate the formation of a Society for the
Prevention of the Writerís Block Myth.
Count me as one of those 99 percent of working authors who donít
believe in writerís block. The key word here is "working."
While all members of RWA are authors, not all are working at it as one
works at a paying job. Thereís nothing like a book contract to turn a
hobby into a profession.
But just because one receives a book contract does not mean that
authorís books suddenly write themselves. We pubs still face the same
blank pages that stare all writers in the face.
How many of us have, at one time or another, said weíre
"waiting for muse"? I used to lump muses in with writerís
block as a mythical impediment to finishing a chapter or finishing a
book. But no more.
That is because there really is a muse. Mine never fails to come
to me when I sit hopelessly in front of a blank computer screen. The
problem is, she never comes to me while Iím driving the car or loading
the dishwasher or taking a shower. She only awakens when Iím sitting
at the keyboard ready to transfer her sage ideas onto the printed page.
Even when Iím oppressively certain Iíll never get that chapter
written, that I have no idea where itís going or how Iíll get from
Point A to Point B, if I take the initiative to sit down at the
computer, my muse will soon pay a visit.
My books average 30 chapters. The first three are always a sheer
delight to write. Itís the other 27 that are problematic. Out of those
27, maybe two of them fall into place without much thought because of
what has set them up in previous chapters. That leaves 25 chapters of
blank pages. That translates to three or four months of sitting daily in
front of those blank pages.
Because Iím sitting at the keyboard, my trusty muse never fails
to turn up. But, as I said, she only honors me with her presence when Iím
at the computer. No sense hoping sheíll pay a visit while Iím
driving down the street. Never happens. Kernels might occur while
driving, but never whole scenes. I think that might be because she has
too much competition when Iím doing something other than writing.
Muses are like husbands. They donít want to share you.
Another myth is that writing gets easier with practice. Houstonís
Pat Kay, whoís published around 40 books, says she still faces the
blank-page syndrome every time she sits at her computer, and that even
after all those books, writing is as hard as it ever was.
But published authors do have a secret, and it never changes. Here
it is: Get thee to a keyboard.
This article first appeared in In Print, March 2006.