We have reached the final post in this series! I know many of these posts were long, but it was my sincere hope to create a resource for writers experiencing the frustration of writer's block. To recap:
Part I: The basic (cognitive-behavioral) model. Helps you understand where I'm coming from.
Part II: The three flavors of writer's block (based on an informal poll of writers).
Part III: First flavor: When life gets in the way. A process for determining how to take EFFECTIVE action against writer's block.
Part IV: Second flavor: Brain clog. What to do when your brain is stuck on the hamster wheel.
Part V: Third flavor: The cycle of doom (AKA: avoidance).
And today, I want to tell you how I think about a statement I've seen in many places, from many writers:
"WRITER'S BLOCK DOESN'T EXIST."
I've seen established professional writers say this, usually in the context of explaining that writing is a full-time job for them, and they simply can't afford to not do it. I've seen not-yet-established writers say this, as well. When I asked about writer's block over at the AbsoluteWrite forums, the folks there urged me to include this particular saying in my discussion of this topic, because many of them had been told "writer's block doesn't exist" ... while in the midst of a bout of writer's block.
On the one hand, I think, frankly, that this is a crappy thing to say to someone experiencing writer's block. If someone tells you that he/she is depressed, are you really going to respond with, "Oh, hey. Depression doesn't exist. Pick yourself up by your bootstraps and cheer up, dude." That would make you ... well, insensitive would be a polite way of putting it.
Basically, if you say this to someone who is dealing with the very problem you're claiming doesn't exist, you are telling them that their experience of the world is invalid.
On the other hand ... I totally get what the "writer's block doesn't exist" crowd is saying, and I would like to offer a positive reframe to the rest of you. I have never seen a case where someone made that statement with malice on his/her mind. Rather, it's often made with helpful intentions. Unfortunately, saying it in that invalidating way makes it highly likely that those good intentions will fall flat, but that is a pitfall of being human instead of a robot. We communicate imperfectly.
Here's the reframe: "writer's block doesn't exist" ---------> "you can do something about writer's block. You are not helpless against it."
"Writer's block doesn't exist" is based on the assumption that, when someone says she has it, she believes she can't do anything about it. That assumption is sometimes correct. It's easy to feel helpless against something that is often nebulous and hard to figure out (which is why I did this series!) and blocks us from achieving deeply valued goals.
But the assumption that you can't do anything about writer's block? 100% INCORRECT.
And this is why some people say "writer's block doesn't exist." Really, they're saying you can do something about writer's block.
Dismissing a problem as nonexistent is really not a helpful way of dealing with things, for so many reasons. But the belief that one can deal with the problem? Very helpful. Very accurate.
That's the point of this entire series. You can figure out what's behind your writer's block, and you can do something about it. That something will be more effective if you take the time to puzzle out what's going on and design strategies targeted at that cause (rather than embracing a bunch of tips immediately). There are awesome tips out there. Lots of resources. But if you don't understand the source of your particular writer's block, they might lead you in the wrong direction.
Know thyself, and then choose thy tips wisely.
Let me know if you have any questions, folks. Thanks for hanging in there with me throughout this series. I hope it's been helpful.
On Monday, when I'll be featuring Justine Dell here on the blog. Her romance, Recaptured Dreams, will be published in a few days by Omnific Publishing, and she'll be here to answer a few questions about the book. Justine was my VERY first crit partner. She and I stumbled our way through the early days, teaching each other. SO I hope you'll come back on Monday and celebrate her achievements with me!