Up on Blocks

Here’s a quote from Philip Pullman (of His Dark Materials) that PVG posted on the Passive Voice blog today:

All writing is difficult. The most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block, and doctors don’t get doctor’s block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it?

Up on Blocks  - CanyonChasersIn the community discussion, many writers disagreed with Pullman’s, but I buy it. I’ve been “blocked” in other, non-writing professional work—when I don’t know the answers and have to wait for the creative solution to come. And I’ve done enough complex remodels that I know plumbers and carpenters have to be creative…and it some times takes a while to find the answer.

Over 30 years of professional writing, I’ve asserted that what people call “writer’s block” is God’s way of keeping down the level of crap that gets out into the world. Writing might slow down, and require a few walks around the neighborhood, but if I’m facing anything that’s called a block, I ask myself these questions:

  1. Do I not want to write this particular piece?
    (Should I wiggle out of the assignment?)
  2. Do I not know enough?
    (Do I need more research? Or am I out of my depth?)
  3. Does this piece actually need to be written?
    (Should I stop? Put it on the shelf or toss it?)

The book I’m working on—working title = Monkey King’s Last Ride—has taken me twice as long to finish as I budgeted. Each of the three questions above have been asked many times in the process.

This book took a few turns I wasn’t expecting, even though I had structure, characters, conflict, and a clear theme in hand. Yet it’s been a bit of a slog. I gave myself extensions on the deadline I’d assigned for several reasons: I’ve been ill (and still coughing after eight weeks). I traveled over the holidays. I spent time publishing the first 8 titles in Enrique Prado’s Opera en Español translations.

However, like any good plumber or carpenter, I kept working while waiting for the creative solution. Yesterday, after a month-long tussle, I found the ending to Monkey King. Although this ending made me cry a little, I’m elated. What a great day!

But to offset the elation, today I did my WA state taxes. Not so elated. Back to Monkey King tomorrow.

Image source: “Should You Work On Your Motorcycle?” on http://www.canyonchasers.net/

About anniepearsonOK

Author of the Rain City series, managing editor of Jugum Press, and writer/project manager for eclectic technical communications projects.

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