The Mythology of Writer’s Block

posted October 9, 2015

I’ve heard about Writer’s Block since I started telling stories in grade school. I find it absurd. I’m not saying every time I write the words flow. Sometimes they do. Sometimes I pull ugly teeth.

Writers can be fragile. It’s not easy to put ourselves out there, but is putting our selves out there the job? Shouldn’t we be putting our work out there? That’s where the romantic mythology of Writer’s Block is bullshit to me. Everyone puts their work out there, not just writers.

You never hear plumbers complain about Plumber’s Block. How would anyone respond to a plumber who can’t work because he’s worried no one takes him seriously as a plumber?

I don’t want to seem unsympathetic. Half the artists I know complain about Block. I sincerely love you guys. I get that a plumber doesn’t have to fight for acknowledgement from friends and family that what they do is worthwhile. People love when their toilets flush. Plumbers are obviously providing a needed and appreciated service.

Nobody needs what we do to survive. Artists are here to entertain, to bring joy and awe, to elicit a lot of emotions. We do not keep toilets flushing though.

My biggest question to the Writer’s Block sufferer is, why do you write? If it’s such an agonizing activity why not just go do something else? If I sit down to write (if it’s not for a client) and I’m not enjoying myself I stop. I go do something else that brings joy into my life and try to write later. I think of that PSA about child abuse: Count to 10 before you touch your manuscript. Since it’s not as required for survival as hygienic living conditions, I’m happy to have the luxury of not writing.

Didn’t the idea of the struggling artist come from outside the artistic experience anyway? Wasn’t it scholars who described the troubled lives of people like Van Gogh or Virginia Woolf? These artists are icons today, but they were just as unknown and alone as many of us while they were doing their work. But that’s why they’re icons today, the work, not a label posthumously placed on them.

The act of making their art was likely one of the few activities that brought them joy while they were alive. If making your art doesn’t bring you joy, how do you expect it to bring joy to anyone else?

Are you struggling with the work or are you caught up in the desire to be defined and identified an artist? It seems to me that even if the world thought you were an artist, but you couldn’t overcome your own doubts, you wouldn’t feel any better.

So please, don’t ask for my permission. It’s not my role in this. I didn’t apply and I don’t want the job. Anyone who you give the power to call you an artist or not is an ass hole. I’m not interested in joining them. I am, however, interested in your art. I may being totally annoyed with your personal whining, but it is always an honor to be allowed into your work. Let me see it! Pick up a pen or a paintbrush and do the work.

Shut Up ‘n Play Yer Guitar.

 

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