A Year on Saturn

...is approximately 29.7 Earth years.

"A Year on Saturn" is the website of Shannon Fay,
freelance and fiction writer.

‘The Block’

Posted on: April 1st, 2016 by Shannon Fay No Comments

I don′t believe in writer′s block. Or at least, I don′t believe in it as this independent, free-standing thing that sits in the middle of an otherwise perfectly ordered/happy life. In my case ′the block′ is carved out of worrying about my housing/work situation. I have been house hunting for an affordable but nice room to rent in London, which is basically the 21st century version of a grail quest. Even now that I have found one worry still puffs up, filling any free space in my brain- will I like living out in zone four? Can I afford a monthly tube pass, or should I save money and just spend 3 hours every day on the bus? (Parsimony is a dangerous sin, in that it earns the scorn of both heaven and hell).

In the past I feel I have been an insufferable shit in regards to writer′s block. ″Just get something on the page!″ I′d said. ″You have to show up even when the muse show up!″ I′d chirp. ″You just need to learn to compartmentalize,″ I′d tell them, sounding more like an assassin/serial killer than a writer. But even though I′ve been following my own advice, it is hard going. I type up a good draft from the rough drafts in my notebooks, and it′s like watching a failed alchemist turn gold into shit: the same words which seemed so good in pen and paper now seem limp and lifeless when on my computer screen.

I should say however, that my frustration levels might be a bit tightly-strung. I′ve had a pretty good year so far as far as writing goes. I′ve written over a half-dozen short stories, most of them flash but one of them a 7k sci-fi mystery that I′m really proud of (it′s one of those pieces that I have been pulling up to re-read lately to remind myself that I am a good writer). The last time I completed and sent off a story was on March 23rd. So I know this block is a temporary state, a hold placed upon my mind while the rest of me transitions to a new physical living place.

So, instead of giving writing advice while times are good, what advice would I give myself from a more lateral position? Well, I′d say be a little bit easier on yourself. If you have a word count target and you aren′t hitting it (or perhaps have not even been attempting) lower it. Go from 1k to 750, 750 to 500. Or just the goal of writing something. It doesn′t have to be a long-term change, just until you get back in the groove again. Or put the writing part of writing on the back-burner and do research for a project. Or perhaps learn more about an unrelated subject that has always interested you and let your mind wander.

If you find your doubts are still nagging at you, I recommend a technique taught to me by Hiromi Goto, one of my Clarion West instructors: try literally drawing your demons, just little monsters in the margins of your notebooks with angry eyes and sharp teeth, saying things like ″Your last sale was a fluke!″ and ″You′ll never sell anything ever again!″ These fears often seem very silly once they are manifested as 2-dimensional doodles, and if you feel like it you can then draw a t-rex gobbling them up.

In one of my favourite books on writing, ′Writing Tools′ by Peter C. Clark, he talks about viewing procrastination as practice, a time when your subconscious is puzzling over things. Rather than trying harder, sometimes it′s better just to say ′fuck it′ and do something else for a little while. Like packing up to move.

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