A friend emailed yesterday. She had been telling me for ages how hard she was finding the writing of her new contracted book – it was coming along far too slowly and each page had to be wrung out of her. Where, she asked, had all the joy in writing gone? In addition she was often unwell with a chronic health problem.
Enough to have many writers toss the keyboard across the room and moan that they have writer’s block and can’t write any more…and some do just that. Othes stop writing because they are scared of failure, particularly if they have had a phenomenal success and don’t think they can repeat it.
But my friend is 100% professional. She kept on writing. Struggling every inch of the way – but she did it, hoping that in the end what she produced would be good.
Yesterday she wrote to say that she had an epiphany – saw where she had been going wrong and how to correct it. The zest returned, the joy was back. And with it the speed of production…
I know how she felt. I’ve been there too. I’ve thought at times that a book I was working on was crap, that nothing was going right, that the flatness of my prose would be obvious to a reader – but I ploughed on. Because that’s what you do when you are professional about your work, whatever your work may be.
And sooner or later, it all comes right – the joy returns, the mistakes are corrected, the plot zings. That would never have happened if I’d stuck the book in a drawer and packed the computer away.
Are there times when you should give up on a particular work? Probably, if you are still learning your trade. The novice wood carver who ruins his piece of wood has to throw it away, after all.
But for someone with a proven track record to say they have writer’s block is a different thing altogether. It’s the job of a professional to work until you get it right. A professional should have the tools to do that, to take the synopsis and rework it into something different if the first approach didn’t come out right. To take that flat, lifeless chapter and turn it sentence by sentence into something that sings.
Writing is more than just a brilliant idea. It’s work, just like any other job.
Writer’s block? I have no time to think about it.