Whatever it is, I think I have it right now. It is a weird feeling, and it has led me to much speculation while staring at the blinking cursor on my computer screen. The big question. What is writer’s block? Or the even bigger question: what causes it?
According to Princeton.edu, writer’s block is:
“an inability to write.”
Well, what is “inability,” then? Clearly, if you know how to spell and read, and if you can also pick up a pen or type on a keyboard, then you can write. I’m writing right now. So that definition’s not good enough.
“The inability to start writing for some period of time. It can take many forms: an inability to come up with any good ideas to start a story, an inability to start writing a new work, or extreme dissatisfaction with all efforts to write.“
Hm. We’re getting closer to the answer. But what bothers me about this definition it that it suggests you only get writer’s block when starting something. I’m 27,000 words into a new book and I have it. So that’s not explanation enough for me either.
Come to think of it, this is not the first time this has happened to me. I realized recently that on most of my unfinished novels, the spot I gave up is around 27,000 words or more, which is 40-50 pages in a typical Word document. Let me consider for a moment how many times this has happened to me …
- That novel about a chess game, in which the characters were actual people in a small fantasy world. They don’t discover that they are mere chess pieces until the end, which means never, because I only wrote about 47 pages
- My Alexandra series. It was going to be about a modern world in which the Roman gods roam openly among us, and a young reporter with the gift of prophecy seeks to unravel their secrets. But it stops at 29,000 words.
- My current novel? Time will tell …
I suppose two times may not be that significant, at least on the surface, but it must mean something. I remember nearly giving up on many novels around this same word count, but pushing through anyway, then finishing with flying colors–“Eadric the Grasper” being a good example.
“The inability to begin or continue work on a piece of writing; normally temporary.“
This definition suits me a little better.
Well, I guess the truth is that I don’t have the answer. All I know is that I sit down every night with the intention to write, and even a strong emotional need to write, but very little comes out. It could be that I’m simply worn out: in the last two years I have written three novels and all ten Lost Tales of Mercia. There could also be a lack of motivation, because I remain unfulfilled as to the reach of the Sons of Mercia series.
The really unfortunate thing is I really believe in this book I’m working on right now. It has tsars and princesses and false tsars and boyar plots and harquebuses. I think it will be awesome if I can finish it, and it is also of the proper genre to help bring my work to a wider audience. I hope I can push past the curse of the 40’s pages.
And what causes writer’s block? I thought I might discover the answer while writing this post, but alas, I fear I only keep beating my head against a wall. My answers lead to more questions.
So now I leave you with the last paragraph I have written, which I normally wouldn’t do because this text is bound to be edited and rewritten or deleted altogether, but I will do anyway because I feel as if I have nothing to lose …
Xenia tried to swallow again, but her mouth felt dry. Even her mother, the mistress of intrigue, could not scheme her way out of her father’s shadow. Maria’s practiced smiles and sweet formalities would never overcome the bitter memory of Malyuta Skuratov, the most notorious leader of Ivan the Dread’s oprichniki.
And there it is, either the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end …
What do you think: shall I continue?