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ColoradoGuy
02-27-2007, 08:30 PM
From a recent essay review (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19977) (about Joan Acocella) by Joyce Carol Oates.

. . . Acocella's essay "Blocked," on the subject of "writer's block": a phenomenon seemingly related to the early Romantic exalting of poetry as "something externally, and magically, conferred" and the exaggerated self-consciousness of the writer as a high priest of art driven to forge an ever-new language in opposition to the vague and cliché-ridden nature of most speech. The "golden age of artistic inhibition" was the period following World War II when Freudian psychoanalysis became popular in intellectual and literary circles and talk of the Great American Novel aroused expectations impossible for most writers to fulfill. William Barrett, an editor of Partisan Review, published an essay titled "Writers and Madness" which suggested that the modern writer was by definition an "estranged neurotic."

Any comments by the "estranged neurotics" out there?

Rolling Thunder
02-27-2007, 08:45 PM
I don't know. All I have laid before me at this moment is a first chapter; immersed in a heavy rewrite. It mocks me on this fifth attempt, as I struggle to pull its languishing soul from the depths of the pulp to the surface of the page, where it's mere mortal words lay.

I'm going off to cry for a while now.

giftedrhonda
02-27-2007, 08:51 PM
Good question...in a way, it can boil down to expectations not being fulfilled. E.g., you may expect the story to go in one direction, and because it doesn't, you don't know what to do.

It's like reader response, except that you're creating the actual text. Sometimes, being at the point where you're surprised by the direction it takes can be good, because it taps into your brain to allow you to think about new possibilities. Other times, it completely freezes you up if you can't think of any other possibilities...

pdr
02-28-2007, 05:50 AM
definition. Writer's Block doesn't exist.

(Oh, I will go along with the neurotic writer having problems but I do feel they are related more to neurosis than writing.)

If the writing won't move along it's because the story is not working and you need to reread and back up and take a different path.

Puma
02-28-2007, 05:54 AM
My opinion, writer's block is the inability to come up with a particular word, phrase, concept, way out of the corner, or whatever that we all face from time to time. On a simplistic level, the "Oh, I can't think of the word I want" describes it. And, if you've been in that situation, you know that you can't really make forward progress until you do think of the word - and in the meantime, you're neurotic. Puma

scarletpeaches
02-28-2007, 05:56 AM
I refuse to believe it exists, so it doesn't for me. If you speak any language, you're capable of writing in that language (well or badly is to be debated in another thread). The words are there, swimming around in your head. It's up to you to get them out on paper.

What a lot of people call writer's block is just laziness, or a reluctance to write, or allowing life to get in the way.

It's all very well to say, "Things happen. You have problems. They affect your ability to write." But can you imagine having a job outside the home and calling your boss to say, "I don't feel like coming in to work today; I'm too concerned about the electricity bill, or the argument I had with my boyfriend last night"?

Life only gets in the way if you let it. To be dedicated to writing, you can't let anything get in the way. If you know what you're going to write, then write it. Worry about it being good or crap later. I bet you won't get 'blocked' when you're editing it. Writer's block is all in the mind. Fannying about feeling sorry for yourself won't cure it.

A lot of writer's block seems to me like whining or self-pity. There's days when I don't feel like doing things either, but I do them because it's my duty, or it pays the bills, or the only way to have something complete is to work towards completion.

Cath
02-28-2007, 07:10 AM
A lot of writer's block seems to me like whining or self-pity.
I think I understand where you're coming from scarletpeaches, but I'm not sure I totally agree.

I think, in some cases, there is a crippling emotional state where people think "I can't do this, I'm not good enough, it's not just working". And it happens to people who work in 9-5 jobs too. They just don't keep those jobs very long (or go off on long term sick leave).

I find the idea of writer's block being caused by the inability to produce anything new interesting, it's something I can identify with. But the original quote seems to suggest that the block is caused by external expection, not internal conflict. Or am I interpreting it incorrectly.

Higgins
02-28-2007, 07:50 AM
I think I understand where you're coming from scarletpeaches, but I'm not sure I totally agree.

I think, in some cases, there is a crippling emotional state where people think "I can't do this, I'm not good enough, it's not just working". And it happens to people who work in 9-5 jobs too. They just don't keep those jobs very long (or go off on long term sick leave).

I find the idea of writer's block being caused by the inability to produce anything new interesting, it's something I can identify with. But the original quote seems to suggest that the block is caused by external expection, not internal conflict. Or am I interpreting it incorrectly.

I think the op is hinting at a double problem in the modernist aesthetic:

1) the modernist/romantic artist/writer was seen as a person with a natural flow of some kind that just naturally feeds into a culturally defined genre and lends the artist/writer a certain cultural value
2) but this cultural value implies and is criticized in terms of some quasi-Freudian inner truth or self-scrutiny that does not necessarily mesh well with the requirements of a "natural flow"...so there is either something "fake" about the artist/writer or he has to suffer a lot (and exhibit some dysfunctional characterstics)...because in the modernist aesthetic everything is given aesthetic value by being dramatically enacted (so to speak) in the inner experience of the writer.

This modernist need to see everything as being given value by something incredibly "artistic" happening constantly inside the (intensified version of a) writer can be opposed to other aesthetics such as the post modern, which nolonger require an intensely artistic especially-in -the-writers-head kind of space to give special value to things.

veinglory
02-28-2007, 07:59 AM
And here we have the standard doctrine and counter-doctrine. Operationally writer's block is when a person experiences the desire to write but does not exhibit the behaviour of writing (despite a lack of physical impediment). It seems like many things could cause that but one cause could certain be a misplaced locus of control (expectation of external inspiration)?

Éclairer
02-28-2007, 02:07 PM
I think someone's motive in writing has much to do with writer's block.

Is writing for oneself, or for one's cause, more important than the act of writing itself? If it was, then if the motivation changed to an unpleasant one, ie: writing to please an editor, or to change the entire face of the world, then might the writer stop writing because he or she does not know why they are writing anymore? Is it, in all actuality, writing anymore? Do we define writing by our motives or by the actual act of putting words together?

Shadow_Ferret
02-28-2007, 08:20 PM
I think I'm in agreement, more or less, with peaches. Writer's block is an excuse not to write. I can't imagine what would prevent someone from writing. A writer might have an idea blockage, where they can't come up with the perfect line, or envision the next scene in a story, but I can't believe they simply can't write. Put that piece aside until the idea presents itself and write something else.

I see a lot of people here, for instance, complaining about writer's block and yet they seem perfectly able to write that post. ;)

veinglory
02-28-2007, 08:27 PM
I would say writer's block is a description of not being able to write. To be an excuse it would have to offer an explanation.

scarletpeaches
02-28-2007, 08:28 PM
Excuses don't offer explanations. If they did, they would be reasons.

Shadow_Ferret
02-28-2007, 10:11 PM
I would say writer's block is a description of not being able to write. To be an excuse it would have to offer an explanation.

Writer's block serves as both an excuse and an explanation.

wordmonkey
03-03-2007, 12:16 AM
It's a faffy indulgence that you can't afford if you "work" at writing.

Think about if for a minute. Who else gets "blocked"?

"Sorry, pal. I can't unload the ship, I've got dock-workers' block."

or

"I would love to fix that broken pipe, sir. But at present I am agonizing over plumbers' block."

(I'll add the gag before anyone else does - "Try drano!")

or

"Well Mr. Bingley, y' see, it's like this. You got autied because I had the most crippling case of Accountants' Block. I mean, I couldn't add two-plus-two without second-guessing myself and wondering if I should carry the two, just to see what it looked like, before being crushed by self doubt, staring at the calculator for six hours and eating all my M&M's in alphabetized color order."

Faffy, I tells ya. Faffy.

Del
03-03-2007, 01:02 AM
http://88.198.45.22/pic/t/thefreebackdrop/writers.block.jpg

Cath
03-03-2007, 02:06 AM
It's a faffy indulgence that you can't afford if you "work" at writing.

Maybe not, but it doesn't mean it doesn't happen: http://jamesaritchie.blogspot.com/2007/02/gripe-whine-complain.html

With apologies to James A Ritchie.

wordmonkey
03-03-2007, 08:00 AM
Maybe not, but it doesn't mean it doesn't happen: http://jamesaritchie.blogspot.com/2007/02/gripe-whine-complain.html

Granted, I was being somewhat light-hearted, but that blog didn't really do anything to disprove my thoughts. The truth is, you work around it. (And cleary our domesticated blogger there was working around it - by working on other projects and seemingly just hammering away at it, waiting for the cracks to appear.)

If it doesn't work, take it apart and start again; throw it away and start again; write any old carp and then come back and edit it later; work on something else; go for a walk and think it over; watch a TV show and come back to it; just don't sit there staring at a screen or wringing your hands, getting all "Lord Byron" in a dusky garret studio, a tortured soul sweating over your prose.

It's B.S.

Now don't get me wrong, if you're doing this as a hobby, or are playing at it and you like the idea, the image, of being the tortured creative bohemian, all power to you. I'm sure it's a whiz for attracting the opposite sex.

Every job had blocks. Every job has problems. Every job has it's sucky parts. Get over yourself and just do what you need to do to get doing what you do and quit feeling sorry for yourself.

(That's a genric anyone "yourself" BTW. Not any specific "yourself.)

OmenSpirits.com
03-03-2007, 09:27 AM
definition. Writer's Block doesn't exist.

(Oh, I will go along with the neurotic writer having problems but I do feel they are related more to neurosis than writing.)

If the writing won't move along it's because the story is not working and you need to reread and back up and take a different path.
Agreed.

Higgins
03-03-2007, 07:24 PM
If it doesn't work, take it apart and start again; throw it away and start again; write any old carp and then come back and edit it later; work on something else; go for a walk and think it over; watch a TV show and come back to it; just don't sit there staring at a screen or wringing your hands, getting all "Lord Byron" in a dusky garret studio, a tortured soul sweating over your prose.


I think we all agree there is a Romantic myth at the bottom of the writer's block (though paradoxically an early Romantic would have to live as long as Coleridge to really have some serious blocks)...but its mythical status doesn't prevent it from happening. Coleridge's Kubla Khan is sort of a dramatic rendering of a writer's block.

For somebody like Coleridge or a classic High Modernist, the writer's block develops around the question of "How do I fake the Romantic Flow of inspiration?"....so they are stuck on the tines of a myth and how to fake it. Coleridge tried a lot of opium as the solution and of course it almost killed him before he became good at "faking" his inspiration. Of course both the myth and the faking are equally "non-existent"....but that doesn't stop them from driving intensified writers to drink themselves to death or nearly kill themselves with opium.

By the way, in conjunction with the OP, this all shows just how essentially Romantic High Modernism really was.

Rolling Thunder
03-03-2007, 08:16 PM
Well, I'll jump back in here given there has been some thoughts looking outside writing (ie; Wordmonkey).

I design homes, baths, kitchens, mill work, etc., for projects to put bread on my table. Writer's block, as an excuse for not writing at all, is not reliable. As an explanation, however, there are presentable facts in many other areas where some type of artistic expression is the prime goal, in my opinion.

This generally comes from wanting to achieve something different. Pulling something together out of thin air to meet expectations of say, a homeowner, is just as difficult as writing a book people want to read. You start with the basic idea of a starting point with the goal of reaching an ending point. Everything between those two points is highly subjective to both the creator and the end user. I'm not talking about deadlines here, only the creative process.

Musicians and painters face the same dilemma. When their current WsIP seem to mirror their past work the possibility of block can present itself. Hopefully it is only temporary but for some it can lead to long term frustration. In home design I primarily work with rectangles and squares, rearranging them to fit in various forms to achieve an end result. I can toss in a few other geometric shapes but the general public has firm views on how a house looks and works, making the options less open to experimentation. I think some writers might look at it this way, too. Fear can be used as a motivator (deadlines) or an intimidation (criticism of peers/public) in any given work and writers are not immune.

ETA: Just saw WordMonkey's last post. Basically, same idea.

hermit authoress
03-04-2007, 04:50 PM
From a recent essay review (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19977) (about Joan Acocella) by Joyce Carol Oates.
Any comments by the "estranged neurotics" out there?

Is there a medicine for this? *feels my forehead*

Technically, I don't believe writer's block exists either. I think people use writer's block as a collective term for whatever reason they think they can't write (can't think of idea, don't know where to go next, i'll never be any good, etc...). I also think that beginning writers hear that term and accept it as truth.

I remember when I DID believe I had it. The hardest thing to hear when that happened was to get back, "You're fulla bull." I didn't know any other word for it so it seemed to fit. I was writing and then it seemed I couldn't. I'd read it everywhere. Now I know, I was VERY insecure and severely in need of guidance (which I'm still working on). The more one appreciates the jump start of writing prompts, gets feedback, and has support, the less likely they are to lean on such a crutch that doesn't exist.

Hermit
_______________________
Writer's block--greatest known piece of fiction and the least entertaining.

Claudia Gray
03-08-2007, 08:20 PM
I refuse to believe in it either. If you have something that you want to write, you CAN write it. Sit down and type words. The words may suck big time, but you can do it, and in my experience you really SHOULD do it. What I've learned is that when I feel like "I can't write," what it means is, I'm not in a place where I can appropriately judge my writing. I just write through it anyway and look back and what I've done a couple of days later. Sometimes it is terrible -- but there's a phrase here that works, or a paragraph there, or seeing how NOT to frame a scene tells me how to redo it. And sometimes it's not terrible at all! I was just in a negative frame of mind that didn't allow me to relate to the story in the same way. In either case, progress has been made, and I don't have this huge obstacle built up in my mind.

Of course, you can simply not have anything that you want to write at a given moment, but I think going through a "dry spell" of ideas isn't the same thing. I do this all the time but don't worry about it, because I find that, every few months or so, I start having ideas right and left -- far more than I can possibly pursue at once. I just make notes, jot a couple things down and let the ideas sort of gestate for a while. The ones that my mind keeps returning to are the ones that are worth rolling with, and that's what I have to work on during the dry spells.

I realize that writing methods are as individual as fingerprints, but writing straight through that "blocked" feeling really works for me.

Anthony Ravenscroft
03-11-2007, 09:58 PM
I think writer's block is very real. I also think that (like depression or whatever) it's far too often cited as an excuse for not carrying through, & not often enough examined for validity. Makes it easy for everyone to compare wildly divergent phenomena.

Shady Lane
03-15-2007, 03:17 AM
"There's no such thing as writer's block. That was invented by people in California who couldn't write."
--Terry Prachett

I really do love that quote.

Kentuk
03-15-2007, 06:51 AM
We use it to keep our paper smooth and flat. It is also good for the money you find in your jeans after they've been washed.

ColoradoGuy
03-15-2007, 06:44 PM
We use it to keep our paper smooth and flat. It is also good for the money you find in your jeans after they've been washed.
I think you mean writer's brick, which is also useful for hitting one's head against.