Writing Myths, Part 2

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What’s the one thing everybody knows about writers?

Need a hint? When you were a little kid, you probably played with these things—some of them had numbers or letters on them so you could stack ’em and spell words at the same time. Toddler multitasking.

Give up?

The hint was blocks. So just one would be … block. And if it’s something everybody knows about writers, it’d be … now you’re getting it … writer’s block.

That almost sounds like a song. I should so be on Sesame Street. Sing with me.

One of these things is not like the others. One of these things is a writing myth.

A Hollywood-fueled myth, passed down to film goers and television watchers. The writer sits at the desk sighing, hair pointing in every direction—in 3D movies, it even points at you—eyes bloodshot from not sleeping. He swears, or she does—myths have no gender bias—and rips the page from the typewriter. Crumples it violently. Flings it off-screen. Cut to the overfull wastebasket. So many crumpled, incomplete ideas.

YA Author Tom Hoover on Writer's BlockHe/she has writer’s block.

Bah. I say it again…bah! With an exclamation point that time.

There is no such thing. And yet the myth continues. There’s even a writing quote about it. “Writer’s Block: When your imaginary friends stop talking to you.”

They don’t stop talking, ever—not even when you want them to. But they have been known to be difficult to talk to from time to time.

Writing can be really hard. Ideas can come slowly. Distractions will pound on your door like those guys who give roofing estimates. You sometimes need to delete a day’s writing because even though it sounded good in your head, it’s like wormy apples on the page. Sometimes you need to throw out an entire manuscript and start the whole thing over, hopefully better this time around.

Ernest Hemingway said it this way: Writing is easy. You just sit down at your typewriter and bleed. Note that he didn’t add: “Unless you have writer’s block.”

There is no condition or life event that can render you unable to write. Except death. Maybe. Fine. I concede that it’s harder to write when you’re dead, which is precisely the reason no one is ever buried with a typewriter. Or a computer. Or even a pad to take notes.

Think about it. If you were an accountant and you were having trouble balancing the books, would you tell people you had accountant’s block? Of course not. They’d laugh at you for even thinking such a ridiculous thing.

If you can’t get your lawnmower started, you don’t have landscaper’s block. If you hit your thumb with a hammer instead of the nail you were aiming for, you don’t have carpenter’s block.

See how silly it sounds? So why do we believe it about writers?

Jack London said that inspiration never comes. You have to go out and chase it with a club.

I’d write more, but I don’t know if I can.

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