Actually, I believe it’s real, I just don’t believe it’s a good enough excuse for not doing something. I think a lot of the time what people call writer’s block is not knowing how to be disciplined.
There are people who insist they can only write under certain circumstances, with a certain lamp, on certain paper with a certain pen at a certain time of the day to certain music.
What a pile of wank.
I think you have to be able to write under all sorts of circumstances: when it’s noisy, when it’s quiet, on the train, in an office, at home, in a bar, in a café, when you’re sick, when the sun is out, when there’s thunder and lightning, any time of day or night that you happen to have free.
Those can’t do that probably won’t ever finish anything and will instead spend their lives telling people how they have a story to tell but they just haven’t gotten around to doing it yet until they realise time has passed them by and they start telling people that they always wished they had had the chance to be a writer because it was probably their true calling and isn’t it a shame but what can you do.
This is one of the many invaluable things that has been drummed into me because of my corporate writing background. I spent three years working at Communikate writing reports, tender responses, tender requests, the front ends of annual reports, and community consultation materials (newsletters, brochures etc). When you have paying clients waiting for you to finish drafts, waiting for inspiration to hit and the words to just flow is not an option. You just get on with it. The first draft might be crap (that’s kind of the purpose of a first draft) but it will be something.
That’s all you need in my experience: something. Something is always better than a blank page, even if it’s total crap. You can change something into something better. You can even completely trash it and try again, but at least you’ve taken the first step.
And I hear protests that writing an annual report is different from writing the Great Australian Novel.
Writing, however, is writing. You draw on the same skills to express why BHP Billiton’s safety record in developing countries is the eighth wonder of the world as you do to craft that piece of fiction you’re currently enamoured with. As well, both tasks require endurance and tenacity to keep going even if every word choice feels like dragging your guts out through your nose.
When you’re negotiating a block, at some point you either give up on it as a bad idea or you say “fuck it, just do it” and get on with it. And maybe find out later it was a bad idea.
Alternatively, this could just be me writing yet another blog post about something I think is stupid for the sole purpose of making me look awesome.
Which would be a way bigger pile of wank.