I have been thinking and wondering and pondering for at least a week on a topic for this blog. Maybe it was holiday overload on the brain, maybe I’ve finally lost my brain; but ultimately I think I’ve been infected with a massive case of writer’s block on the brain. I thought about working through some creativity exercises to get the juices flowing again, but other very important tasks demanded attention such as cleaning the bathroom, wiping six month’s worth of doggy nose prints off my front windows, and reading the last couple of issues of our local weekly newspaper so they could go out in last night’s recycling bin.
Then I read a devotion on how perfectionism paralyzes us and keeps us from doing what we are called to do. That’s always been a problem for me as I was taught from little on that if something is worth doing, then it’s worth doing right. The converse then, must also be true: if it can’t be done right then it should not be done at all. For many of us writers, this speaks to our inner editors who love perfection and want nothing more than to stop us in our tracks. It convinces us that any of our efforts at any stage of the writing process is the worst drivel ever to appear on the face of the earth.
How do we conquer this inner editor? Dorothea Brande in her book Becoming a Writer talks about how writers actually need a split personality, the writer stifling the editor at times and the editor pushing aside the writer at others. One of the best ways to practice this, I’ve found, is to do National Novel Writing Month in November where the emphasis is on eliminating the inner editor and write with abandon for the entire month. No worries about perfection; it is in fact forbidden. But then I’m stuck with a 50,000 word manuscript that isn’t done right, and therefore must not have any worth. This year I struggled to come up with an idea and then kept changing it until in mid-November I stopped because I had writer’s block.
Writer’s block? That’s how this whole mess started—without a decent idea. Then I believed that any writing for the SDCWA blog had to be both brilliant and perfect. Then I pushed my inner editor aside to write anything that came to mind. Then I realized that what I’ve written is nothing more than delirious drivel. Then I searched for an idea. . . Is anyone else on this merry-go-round with me?
(Photo: Forest Park Carousel in Glendale, New York.)
O wretched writer that I am! Who will rescue me from this endless, circular trap? Me—with a lot of help from the Lord and fellow writers who encourage me to exercise the discipline I need to show up at my computer each day—ideas or no ideas, good writing or drivel—and pursue my calling with the dedication it needs and deserves.
Susan Reith Swan is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Pittsburgh, PA. When she was little, she loved visiting Forest Park by her grandmother’s house with its German hand-crafted carousel in the middle. Since then, she has always found it hard to get off of carousels.