This was posted as a comment on one of my blog postings by Jerry Mundis, but I thought it made so much sense that I’ve reproduced the whole darn thing. Welcome to guest blogging, Jerry.
I’m guessing Jerry’s advice in his consultations to writers trapped in amber is just as solid and penetrating. (His website info is at the bottom for those of you who might benefit from a chat with him.) Thanks, Jerry, much appreciated.
“I’ve been breaking writer’s block for nearly 20 years in a one-time consultation for people ranging from full-time professional writers, including one who’s had ten books in a row on the New York Times bestseller list, and another who is a Pulitzer prize winner, to part-time writers, graduate students, and aspirant writers.
I identify six major forms of block (these also apply to other creative artists as well as writers, such as composers, photographers, and painters — but not to actors — and, actually, can apply to great numbers of people for great numbers of projects or undertakings). They are:
2. Avoidance behavior
3. Last-minute crisis writing
4. Inability to finish
5. Inability to select from among projects
6. Block specific (able to work on other material).
I can’t summarize a five-hour session filled with concept and technique here, but here, without going into detail about them or discussing the many subtle ways they can play out, are what I call “The Three Big Killers” in block:
1. Perfectionism — which is a form of all-or-nothing thinking, triumph or catastrophe, with nothing possible in between.
2. Fear — which is a product of the first and second Big Killers, but which can be identified as a separate entity. All fear in writer’s block, regardless of where it starts, can be boiled down to the simple statement: “That I can’t do it.” And what is the “it” that I can’t do? The simple act of putting words on paper. Period. Nothing more. Nothing less. The simple act of putting words on paper. No more magical an act than painting a board or throwing a board. (Find an equivalent analog for whatever task or project *you* have in mind or are facing.
3. The Baggage Train — these are all the things we wish to *accomplish* with our writing, such as I want to be rich, I want to be admired, I want to make them laugh and cry, I want to save the whales, I want to bring peace to the middle-east, etc., but which are not the *act* of writing itself. The problem arises because, while it looks like I’m trying to write, and I *think* I’m trying to write, I’m not: I’m trying to get rich, save the whales, get my ex-wife and all my ex-lovers to say ‘Boy, I really should have stayed with him. Look how sensitive and insightful he is,’ etc. The key is to disconnect the baggage train from the locomotive, which is writing, which is the simple act of putting words on paper, so that thing get out of the station.
Any single one of these Killers operating in you with sufficient strength, and you’ll be blocked ; any two present at the same time, and you don’t have a chance.
I hope that is of some help. (Incidentally, I am not invulnerable to block myself. In fact, I have a *huge* potential case of it. The difference is, I know what to do about it. Actually, I break writer’s block several times a day for myself. If I didn’t, I would be paralyzed.)”