The self-fulfilling prophecy
The dormant monster that lurks in every writer, ready at any moment to rear its head and strike at potential inspiration. I often choose to see writer's block this way, like an affliction of the mind, a writer’s flu.
It's a rationalisation that often sees me sitting in front of Netflix or ringing up friends to socially drink my ideas away. I even justify not writing by pretending whatever I am doing is research for my next short story or chapter of my novel I was meant to finish 2 years ago, (which to be fair does often work). The stark reality is that I prefer to numb my recurring worries than sit in front of words I am not happy with and work to make them better.
To stop the swirl of self-doubt, I decided to buy and actually read a writing tips book (which goes against a lot of my sometimes ill-founded ideas of what I think a writer is). The book argues that there is no such thing as writers’ block, and by accepting it exists, you pander towards a self-fulfilling prophecy, i.e. ‘I can’t write, so I don’t’. Although true, it’s also an annoying simplification, like telling someone suffering from depression to snap out of it.
The book is very practical and I am sure that it must help a lot of writers; but as always I prefer ideals, which is why I’ve only read 2 chapters and out of the thousands of words I’ve sifted through, one quote keeps whirring around my head (originally written by New York Sports Writer Roger Smith):
‘Writing is easy. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein’.
Writing something from the deep takes guts, and when you post it online it’s the writing equivalent to stripping down and parading your flawed self on the street. The cellulite to my grammar mistakes and the love handles to my flowery constructions.
I often think about how writers before the 21st century would deal with the internet, would Shakespeare be comfortable with hashtagging #muchadoaboutnothing in case it goes viral? Would someone like Sartre take a stand and never publish on the internet, Instagram likes being irrelevant to the here and now?
Writers also, as with almost everything in life, change and improve. So when I look back at old work, I often cringe at the cheesy lines or the immature style; much like looking at deranged wardrobe choices in past Facebook photos. Overanalysing past mistakes can paralyse you and stop you from moving forward. It’s also a brave thing to take the plunge once again and publicly declare what your essence is in that moment of time.
When it comes to personal, creative writing, I have a very thin skin. I have taken 2 blog sites down because I couldn’t stand them being on the internet anymore, I walk away from a screen if I write more than 3 phrases that make me roll my eyes and have had minor heart attacks about sharing my personal writing with friends or on social media.
The complete opposite can be said for when I write commercially, for companies. I have practiced a voice that I now quite easily inhibit and adapt to briefs, constructive criticism is something I welcome and tight deadlines rarely daunt me. This isn’t a talent I was born with but a skill that has been developed and fine-tuned over time, going over and over the same thing, just like my handy writing book told me.
Perhaps then, in homage to my twin star sign, I am two separate writers - the commercial and the creative.
During the course of writing this article my writer's block has completely disappeared and drifted off to inhibit another unsuspecting writer. I am not sure if it's a coincidence or that this article was a form of therapeutic medicine. For once I am in complete balance with my commercial and creative writing selves, both with different styles, goals and temperaments that seem to finally be learning to co-exist together.
Article written by: Sara Benaissa