Sunday, September 02, 2012

Review: On Writer's Block

I used my "artist's date" last week to go to my local library and look at books on writing.  I had requested a couple for pickup, but I also thought I'd browse the shelves.  I found On Writer's Block and was intrigued. I opened up to a few random pages and realized that I had found a book that wasn't going to let me get away with the usual excuses.

In The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron discusses writer's block as a writing injury. This assumes that the writer is reacting to an unfairly negative past criticism, to family messages about the nature of art or to a fear of success or failure.

On Writer's Block deals with the same issue but from a grounding in basic psychology.  "A writer must have the humility to approach his problems as a human being first, an artist second," writes author Victoria Nelson. She says that writing problems are not just writing problems but the result of more basic problems, such as an unrealistic idea of what writing will be:
It's important to realized that "wanting to write" is a time-honored fantasy for many, equivalent to escaping to a desert island. This is harmless daydreaming that turns ugly only when the dreamer begins judging his fantasy by real-world standards that patently don't apply: "I keep thinking about writing but never do it, therefore I'm a failure and a fraud." Then it is time to ask what void in real life this fantasy attempts to fill. Often it is simply freedom from daily responsibilities and a sterile work environment.
This made me wonder whether I really want to write or whether I'm looking for an out from my current work situation, which definitely has its frustrations as well as its pleasures.  I suspect this could be true because I don't imagine myself writing as much as I imagine myself Being a Writer, which is of course a different enterprise.

What if, though, I really do want to write? The parallels to Intuitive Eating are striking. Lay off self-blame and find the most enjoyable writing projects to tempt the reluctant writer forward. Find engagement in the work itself and not some dreamed-about future reward. Don't weight the decision to write with unnecessary importance.  Don't treat your writer self cruelly if you aren't writing.

I'm about halfway through this book but thinking I want my own copy so I can mark some of the important passages. I looked and it's available used for less than $4, including shipping, from Amazon. I am trying not to buy new books but this is one I will want to reread.  

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