It’s been 4 years now since this huge writing streak I had back in 2018 came to an end. Sometime in late September of that year, I took a purposeful break, not quite understanding that I was dooming myself to the next 4 years in this doom-spiral of writer’s block.
To be clear, I also agree with the assertion of many who say that writer’s block isn’t a thing. However, without a better way to describe the general malaise and strife that creative folk often encounter that somehow “blocks” them from making forward progress on whatever it is they are working on (writing for writers… hence writer’s block), the words stick. Likely that best way to describe this phenomenon though is “project block”. I would go even further and say that it is more likely better described process block. But these are all semantics. You say potato; I say spud.
Sometimes, the words we choose to describe things does matter. In many ways, that is partly what is going on in politics at the moment — not that I have any desire to get into a political debate, but suffice to say, there are few agreements on even how to describe things right now, or the correct words to use. But no matter where you may fall on the political spectrum, let’s choose to call whatever it is that I am experiencing “writer’s block” and leave it at that, regardless of your feelings on the matter. I am a writer; I am feeling like there is a blockage to overcome with my writing. Writer’s block is what we’re going to call this thing, although there is another habit that I have that also is hanging around.
In part 4 of her ongoing series “How Writer’s Fail”, Kristine Kathryn Rusch discusses the idea of writers almost becoming stuck within this overwhelming project. She referenced the “Wonder Boys”, a book/movie that I have yet to watch. In it, one of the characters is stuck within this massive book he is trying to write. It’s a massive tome, and one that by all accounts, he likely will never finish.
To catch you up (if this is the 1st one of these posts you’re reading), Kristine Kathryn Rusch put out an ongoing series on her blog as a subset of her “Business Musings” called “How Writers Fail” with 8 posts on that subject as of writing this. Taking the idea, I turned that lens on my own habits and have put out “Why I am Failing as a Writer”, tackling the topic she posts in each part.
This post is based off Kristine’s post: Business Musings: How Writers Fail (Part 4): Aging Writer Edition
So why the title change for my post? Well, for starters, I am not quite an aging writer. I am, but I am not. At 43, there are still a number of years ahead of me (pending good health and lots of luck). But while Kristine wrote with the focus of older writers becoming stuck within a single project they worked on and not being able to escape it or complete it before their death, I saw this as the dilemma of a writer getting stuck in writer’s block on a project. Maybe it is not the blockage in the traditional sense, but rather a form that prevents said writer from being able to finish it. Or they allow it to become stuck in an endless cycle of rewrites (a similar but actually different problem).
Kris writes about many writers ending up hanging up their craft or getting stuck on a project that the writer cannot seem to wrestle down. The real theme of this is a difficult one to tease out. Suffice to say, to me, it deals with the idea of writer’s block. Or writer’s languish — where a writer becomes stuck in a writing project that doesn’t seem to end. The problem here is the age of the writer.
As we get older, the understanding of the shortening time one has on this planet gets increasingly evident. I cannot yet connect with what it is like to be a writer with another 20 or more years of age, but the idea of getting stuck in a project as time fades to the past is something I can understand. I let myself get stuck where before I know it, I’ve spent far too long on a project and it doesn’t feel any closer to finished than the day the idea came to my head to write it. That’s where her post connected to me.
Too many times there were projects I was working on that we in a perpetual writing loop. They were languishing. I couldn’t finish them, and everything I was writing in them was not taking the project to any natural conclusion. It made it difficult to write them any more.
Granted, this isn’t my problem so much now. I’m still in this weird space that I need to figure out. Everything I write isn’t taking me anywhere. When I do write, I feel that I am only adding words to a project. Maybe that’s what the project needs; that’s not how I should feel about it. Stories will dictate how long they should be. The issue here is that I cannot see that with what I’ve worked on. And there are many times I think about giving up and hanging up the project — or even writing sometimes — but as I wrote before, it’s not happening. I have to keep writing. I am languishing, but I am not giving up yet… make that never. I am never giving up.