Things I don’t believe in

I don’t believe in Bigfoot. Or that thing in Loch Ness. I don’t believe in monsters under the bed (any fan of Pixar movies knows they come from the closet). And I don’t believe in writer’s block.

Probably half the people reading right now think I’ve just set myself up for something horrible. Like the scantily clad sorority girl in the slasher movies who barges into the deserted building with a blithe, “Nothing to worry about in here.” Famous last words.

That’s not to say I haven’t put in my time staring at a blank computer screen. Or praying, like Salieri in Amadeus, for inspiration to strike NOW. Of course I have; I’m human.

But I don’t call that “writer’s block.” I call it working.

Give it a label and you pathologize the behavior. It’s not a disease; it’s part of the process.

Writers need to think before we create. We need to synthesize ideas, macerate them so the flavors meld and create something new. Sometimes that process takes more time than we’d like. I’ve come to realize that if I can’t think of an idea on a topic I’m supposed to be writing about, it means I probably don’t have enough information. Time for more research.

Okay, it’s not exactly as smooth as that sentence made it sound. “I’ve come to realize”—yes, but do I always remember that “I’ve come to realize”? Or do I spend a few frustrating hours trying to pound a square peg into a nonexistent hole before I identify what’s going on? You might think I’d get better at doing this—or at least faster—after 25 years as a professional writer. (Well, you might not think that. But I do.)

Even if I’m not always quick enough to recognize and jump over the hurdle, I still understand that’s all it is—a hurdle. It’s not a disease, not a psychopath waiting to rob me of my ability to write. It’s a process.

Don’t make the fear stronger by feeding it. Walk away, clear your head, write something else. And if you must name something, name the glorious feeling of your fingers flying over the keyboard: the Write Stuff.

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