Jan 032013

Or not.

It turns out that Cheryl Bolen is the founder of Society for the Prevention of the Writer’s Block Myth. Today, this best-selling romance author explodes that myth and shares a number of tips on how to entice your muse to perch on your shoulder and help you to write that next chapter of your WIP. She also reveals the secret known to all successfully published authors on how to finish that next book

*         *        *

The dog ate my homework.

My great grandmother died.

I was attacked by a 24-hour virus.

And, oh yeah, I’m suffering from writer’s block.

The much-maligned writer’s block is a lame excuse for lack of focus. I’m here to promulgate the formation of a Society for the Prevention of the Writer’s Block Myth.

Count me as one of those 99 percent of working authors who don’t believe in writer’s 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. There’s nothing like a book contract to turn a hobby into a profession.

But just because one receives a book contract does not mean that author’s 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 we’re "waiting for muse?" I used to lump muses in with writer’s 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 I’m driving the car or loading the dishwasher or taking a shower. She only awakens when I’m sitting at the keyboard ready to transfer her sage ideas onto the printed page.

Even when I’m oppressively certain I’ll never get that chapter written, that I have no idea where it’s going or how I’ll 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. It’s 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 I’m sitting at the keyboard, my trusty muse never fails to turn up. But, as I said, she only honors me with her presence when I’m at the computer. No sense hoping she’ll pay a visit while I’m 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 I’m doing something other than writing.

Muses are like husbands. They don’t want to share you.

Another myth is that writing gets easier with practice. Houston’s Pat Kay, who’s 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.

© 2008 – 2012 Cheryl Bolen
This article was first published in In Print, March 2006.
Posted at The Beau Monde by permission of the author.

  3 Responses to “Blame it on Writer’s Block   By Cheryl Bolen”

  1. Cheryl, I must respectfully disagree. Or maybe we don’t have the same definition of writer’s block.

    Maybe some people call it writer’s block when they don’t ever get to the keyboard. Maybe some people call it writer’s block when the writing doesn’t flow for 10-15 minutes from the start of a writing session, when really they just need to get past the warm-up period. But there is a form of writer’s block which I’ve had (at various points in the course of publishing seven titles) and I know other published authors have experienced. It happens when you sit down to work on a regular basis, you push on for full writing sessions and still, day after day, the characters no longer seem alive and the words and ideas don’t flow. You beat yourself up. You start loathing the work and eventually loathing yourself.

    I think it’s analogous to an athletic injury. Somehow you’ve gotten hurt, maybe through the changes of the business, an unsupportive spouse, toxic critique, burnout. These are all factors I’ve seen in cases of writer’s block in previously productive writers. Like an injured athlete, playing through may or may not be a good idea. Sometimes you need to take a break to figure out what’s wrong and then get back to work with a greater understanding and a kinder attitude toward yourself.

    I agree that using writer’s block as an excuse or just waiting for the muse is pointless. Of course getting to the keyboard is essential. But sometimes that’s not enough, and then I think the blocked writer should consider trying some of the many unblocking strategies and techniques that are out there.

  2. I appreciate the information that I am not the only one who doesn’t find it easier to write as I get more experience.

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