Writer’s Block. Is the monster real?

Lying under the covers with your heart thudding out of your ears, the blanket your only defense against the hideously clawed beast creeping up the side of your bed, the desperate grappling for an escape strategy has terminated any intentions of sleep.

Remarkably similar to when you’re sitting at your keyboard with Writer’s Block. Although it cannot physically disembowel you, it can condemn you to hours of suffering behind the glaring screen as you wait with shaking breaths for the talons to sink into your flesh.

Imaginary threats can be as dangerous as physical ones. Distinguishing between imaginary monsters from reality helps enormously in disarming the threat. Yale researchers and psychologists Jerome Singer and Michael Barros followed a group of writers with the dreaded affliction for several months.

What came out was that Writers Block is no lack of talent, but a chronic dis-contentment with the creative process that writing embraces. It plagued those writers who were too engrossed with self-criticism or those relying heavily on attention and admiration to fuel their creativity, which subsequently lead to a complete creative shut down.

It has no objective existence. It lurks within you and sneakily masquerades as the monster under the bed, but is, in fact, a delusion of your own concocted fears. Quell the fears, and you’ve slaughtered the monster. To do that, you need to understand the fears. 

Fear could be a fear of failure, a fear of the unknown, fear of judgement or fear of the first step. If you can overcome those fears, the creativity will flow like the blood of the monster you just delivered to hell.

A writer with the uncanny name, Peter Elbow (how can you write without an elbow?) developed a strategy for beating these fears in 1973. It’s as easy as picking up a pen and continuously writing whatever is in your brain for as long as you can without worrying about spelling or grammar or sense. 

It’s called Free Writing, or – Winging It, and it feels like an exotic island getaway, complete with daiquiris. 

Its pictorial counterpart is doodling. Both engage the subconscious part of your brain where those fears cannot get to and extract the creative bits from behind the shields we develop to protect our egos. Free Writing relaxes you and brings about trust in your relationship with your inner critic.

From the Elbow Man, “The consequence of writing is that you must start writing the wrong meanings in the wrong words, but keep writing until you get the right meaning in the right words.” 

In other words, the escape plan for eluding the monstrous beast would simply be – to write.