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Friday, September 7, 2012

Speaking of Writer's Block . . .

I've never had "writer's block" because I'm an author.

And here's the distinction in both my mind and as paraphrased from the words of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary: An author creates, like God (check out Webster's yourself). A writer . . . writes.

Think of the terms "ghostwriter, screenwriter, copywriter." All these wonderfully artistic souls are for hire in general. Not that they can't also be authors, but these three terms are strictly for when they are working under someone else's direction, writing around someone else's creation.

For ghostwriters, they take the idea from the source (the person who hired them) and carry it to fruition. For screenwriters, they usually take a novel (again, someone else's baby) and reduce it to a 120-page script for the big screen. For copywriters, they are instructed (by their employers) to write ads for their customers, for instance.

Okay, the previous spotlighted generalities. This paragraph deals with specifics. You could order me, a romsus author, to "write like Stephen King" and my brain would freeze. Same as if you commanded me to write about death in gory details or child porn or concentration camps. First, not my genres. Second, even if you dictated that I write in my own genre--now at this very instant--a romantic suspense short story about a prince and a barmaid, I'd be a petrified, brain-dead, wordless individual.

Because I don't write on demand.

Because I'm not paid by the hour or in flat fees per job.

Because I generate my own ideas.

Because I create from data I am constantly gathering with all six senses (yes, I'm counting intuition).

Now granted, I could write something if forced and it would probably read that way . . . forced. Lifeless. No emotion. Because it didn't have the verve of a story idea that I cultivated and picked myself.

Thus, if I don't happen to be creating at the moment, I don't call it "writer's block." I call it gathering info, letting things marinate, allowing thoughts to percolate a while longer. Research. 

So, be careful what you name things.

Take Abram in the Bible for instance. When God wanted to change Abram's destiny, he changed his name, WHAT HE WAS CALLED. That is why we know him better as Abraham. God changed his wife's name, too. Sarai became Sarah for the very same reason.

Beware what you call things.

So if you think you are experiencing "writer's block," ask yourself these questions:
  1. Am I working with a subject or theme or premise I chose myself, which I love, that inspires something in me, whether enthusiasm and goodwill or rage about wrongs to be righted or something in between?
  2. Am I on the wrong side of the writer-author line? Like me, I work better solo, in full control, as an author. While I could function in the write-about-this role, I would not be happy and my creative genes would go on strike.
  3. Am I affixing a derogatory label (writer's block) when I really need downtime, some influx of new data/scenery and my mind-body-soul are just working off that bad input?
  4. Change "can't/won't/no" to "choose not to/maybe later/not now as I've decided to do something more important." Watch for those automatic responses we all tend to replicate.
  5. Stop saying "I have writer's block" and that may cure a lot of ills--ha! 
  6. Am I working by formula instead of being moved by emotions?
Hope something above stirred your heart as you read this. As always, take what resonates, toss the rest.

Denise Barker, author + blogger + copy editor

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