As promised, I’m back with another tip on how to conquer the notorious boogeyman nearly every writer faces at one time or another: Writer’s Block!
Last week, my tip for you was to make a plan before you sit down to write. This can be something as thorough and intricate as a soup-to-nuts outline, or something as crisp and compressed as a single scene overview, which, as I explained in Part I, consists of a one-line summary, conflict, resolution, and polarity shift.
Today’s tip centers around a tiny yet powerful three-letter-word: Joy.
Ray Bradbury, author, poet, essayist, and screenwriter whom The New York Times credited as “the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream,” once said it was joy that “propelled [him] from day to day and year to year.” His suggestion to writers encountering what he referred to as a “sudden blockage” is to take it as a sign that we’re writing the wrong thing.
“In the middle of writing something you go blank and your mind says: ‘No, that’s it.’ Okay. You’re being warned, aren’t you? Your subconscious is saying, ‘I don’t like you anymore. You’re writing about things I don’t give a damn for.’ You’re being political, or you’re being socially aware. You’re writing things that will benefit the world. To hell with that! I don’t write things to benefit the world. If it happens that they do, swell. I didn’t set out to do that. I set out to have a hell of a lot of fun” (emphasis mine).
Our subconscious is a whole heckuva lot smarter than we give it credit for. On his website, bestselling author and motivational speaker Brian Tracy has an entire article on the power of the subconscious. Here are just a few of its remarkable functions and abilities:
- Stores and retrieves data.Its job is to ensure that you respond exactly the way you are programmed.
- Through your autonomic nervous system, it maintains a balance among the hundreds of chemicals in your billions of cells so that your entire physical machine functions in complete harmony most of the time.
- It’s responsible for all of your involuntary actions. Your breathing rate and heart beats are controlled by your subconscious mind.
- Stores all your habits of thinking and acting.
In a nutshell, the subconscious mind contains the essence of who were are. Now, I know that sounds a little woo-woo, but where would we be without the memories and emotions the subconscious keeps safe for us, and the involuntary actions it initiates? It stores every milestone, every unforgettable heartbreak, our deepest secrets and unspoken desires. It keeps our lungs drawing in air even while we sleep, and creates the dreams that sometimes spark our creativity in marvelous, unexpected ways.
Because it composes such a significant part of our being, the subconscious mind knows us intimately, from what we fear most and like least, to which pursuits light our souls on fire.
As artists, it’s imperative that we pay attention when we get a gut feeling that our writing is falling flat, or feels like drudgery instead of play. (There are those writers who prefer drudgery over play when they’re writing, a preference I can’t begin to comprehend. To me, life’s too short to “open a vein and bleed” while doing something you’re “passionate about.”)
I agree with Mr. Bradbury 110 percent when he said, “Writing is not a serious business. It’s a joy and celebration.”
If you’re feeling blocked and like you’d rather clean your house from top to bottom five times in row, or prep all your meals for the next two weeks than write, ask yourself the question Mr. Bradbury posed: “Am I being joyful?”
Maybe you’re just not feeling motivated and need to power through with a hefty dose of self-discipline for a while. Maybe there’s a lot going on in your personal life that’s to blame for the blockage. Maybe you need to make a plan, as I talked about last week. But maybe your case of writer’s block is simply a sign that you need to move on to a new idea, a new subject that captures your imagination and piques your curiosity.
“Never write anything that does not give you great pleasure. Emotion is easily transferred from the writer to the reader.” – Joseph Joubert
I hope you’ve found this week’s tip helpful! I’ll be back next week with Tip #3! As always, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @dandersontyler or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!
 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/07/books/ray-bradbury-popularizer-of-science-fiction-dies-at-91.html (accessed October 7, 2017)
 https://prezi.com/8gej_nrhzyst/ray-bradbury-keynote-address-sixth-annual-writers-symposium/ (accessed October 7, 2017)
 “Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.” That quote comes from Red Smith, an American sportswriter (1905-1982).