I’m not convinced that creative block exists. I think writer’s block is a clever thing made up by writers—because we’re really clever—where what we’re actually talking about is getting stuck. But I don’t believe there are Gods of Writing that go, “For the next five mornings, he shall be blocked.” –Neil Gaiman
Graham and I saw Neil Gaiman at Wolf Trap last night, and he was every bit as funny and engaging as I knew he would be. He answered lots of audience questions, recited “The Jabberwocky,” read from several works, and even shared a couple of deleted scenes from the upcoming TV adaptation of Good Omens. All very exciting and more than worth the cost of a ticket. And also phenomenally inspiring.
Every writer I know, lots that I don’t, and, well, me too – we’ve all hit…the wall.
If you write (or engage in any sort of creative activity, I think), you’ve known that terrible feeling, that awful moment when, even though things have been going perfectly well and you’ve been dutifully churning out words for the last eternity (or, you know, hour, give or take) or so, suddenly everything grinds to an agonizing halt. And then, you’re stuck. Writer’s block.
I’ve heard various pieces of advice on how to combat writer’s block. I’ve read that long walks help, that a change of scenery or some music or caffeine or alcohol might help, and I’ve tried a fair number of strategies myself. Nothing, though, has ever resonated with me quite so well as what Neil Gaiman said last night – that it doesn’t exist! – and his advice for moving forward is so simple, so reasonable:
Or, more specifically:
The thing I use to combat writer’s block is to have more than one thing that I’m writing. If I really get myself stuck on something I’m writing, I can just do something else. –(also) Neil Gaiman
I don’t want to say that hearing my idol, my favorite living writer, give this simple advice in person last night was a revelation, but, truth is, it was. I, and I hope I’m not alone because that would be so sad and discouraging, have always assigned some sort of cosmic power to writer’s block. “The muse just isn’t singing today,” I’ve said to myself. Or, “I wish my imaginary friends felt like talking today.”
No more of that junk after last night, that’s for sure. I’ve always had multiple ideas swimming around in my head at any given time, but I’ve never felt comfortable leaving a project behind before it’s well and truly finished. I tried it today, after being stuck for a pretty long time on my magnum opus, and I really am feeling better. It’s like working on something different cleared the cobwebs out of my brain, and now I can see the path forward where I couldn’t before.
Neil Gaiman was right, of course. So, until next time, keep writing.