Writer’s Block Is a Choice

It seems like there’s two brands of writer’s block: there’s “My muse has not graced me with her presence,” and there’s, “I have no ideas.” Maybe there are more, but we’re going to focus on these two.

The short version is: I think both are a bit BS.

I can understand factors in every day life that take up mental energy. Sometimes my space is cluttered and dirty, and I can’t focus. I can understand being busy and distracted.1 I can understand needing a break from the process. I can even understand staring at a story and being like, “This story is impossible. I need to work on something else today.”

The choice not to write is valid; you can decide today is a day that you need to preserve your energy for other tasks, or spend time with your family. But to then say, “Oh, I would write today, but you know — writer’s block,” is bullshit. It’s an excuse that you’re painting as a reason.

Oh sing to me, my beloved muse!

Salma Hayek as the muse from Dogma

Your muse is judging you.

Let me be honest — I effin’ hate muses. I hate the very idea. I know it’s mean and exclusionary and I’m sorry, honestly. But the very idea makes me want to toss every muse into a mass grave and mark it with a big billboard: DEAR WRITERS: YOU ARE THE MASTERS OF YOUR OWN CREATION.

I don’t understand why any writer would want to take the beautiful moments of inspiration and hand credit off to some ethereal babe in a toga. Having an idea is the best part of being a writer. I understand why people like to pass credit off to a higher power. Sometimes you’re staring at this idea and you’re like, “What is this even? How did I come up with this?”

The side effect is, of course, the classic, “I can’t write today; the mu~se isn’t with me.” It makes writers look like super special snowflakes who can’t be bothered to handle their own lives. I once read a blog post from a Certain Professional Author who talked about missing a deadline because their muses and characters weren’t speaking to them.

Cue epic eye roll.

I appreciate, at least, the egalitarian nature of writers who ascribe to a muse — while they pass off the blame for not writing, at least they’re also passing off the credit for a great idea.

This story is stuck.

This feels like the more logical version of the muse issue. Or more like, it’s the same root problem of, “What the hell am I writing?”

I’ve written myself into a corner before. I’m pretty sure that if you don’t write yourself into the corner at least once per novel, then you’re either more organized than me (extremely possible), or you’re making too many easy decisions for your characters.

It’s hard to get out of those corners. The worst thing for me if to have to skip the ending of a scene and come back to it. Through the course of Camp NaNo in June, I had to choose to do this with two scenes and it makes me irrationally angry.

But I had two options: continue falling behind because I couldn’t think of how to transition into the next scene, or leave a note to come back to it while editing, when I had a clearer understanding of my story and could focus on it more thoroughly.

I don’t terribly like doing that, but sitting around and waiting for the idea to strike isn’t an option when you’re trying to hammer out 50K in a month. And thanks to being a habitual NaNo writer, I no longer think that sitting around and waiting for the right idea is a very logical method of writing in the long term.

What it comes down to, for me, is that I can choose not to write, or I can choose to write through the shitty parts. There’s a reason we have to do more than one draft to write a solid story.

Calling it writer’s block, to me, is just a way of adding ~*mystique*~ to the creative process, while try to validate why you chose not to write today.

1. I have a kid and a cat and I work at home; some days having ten minutes of uninterrupted thought is a miracle.

Ashley M. Hill found her voice in science fiction when her curiosity about technology coupled with the lifelong urge to tell stories. Her interest in social and feminist issues shapes how she approaches the genre. She's pursuing computer and network repair for her day job.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.