This is me -- HI! -- waaaay back in 19-mumble-mumble, just before I received my BA degree in Theater/Acting from the University of California at Davis.
My career dreams were always split between writing and acting. Obviously writing won, but I never gave up on the acting thing, either -- I turned it into a book!
See? What they say is true -- write what you know! (Okay, okay, that's not always true. Maybe I'll tackle that in a later blog....)
BLOG #1 WRITER'S BLOCK:
The Paralyzing Predicament of PAGE FRIGHT
Bobbi JG Weiss 12/14/13
I constantly hear from writers about how they're suffering from writer's block (or what I like to call "page fright"). They can't get a word on the page. They can't concentrate. They feel no creativity. And the more they struggle with it, the worse it gets.
I've also heard lots of advice given on how to conquer writer's block. Below is an excerpt from my book WRITING IS ACTING, and it is my answer to this common writer's problem.
Let me equate writer’s block with stage fright. More than once I’ve been about to step out onstage and almost ralphed in terror. I’ve gotten horrible jitters two weeks before opening night by just thinking about it. I’ve gone blank onstage and even forgotten what play I was in. Once I was so afraid to make my entrance that I didn’t pay attention to the low doorway and I knocked my wig right off my head.
Stage fright is just that: fear. Fear of performance. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of self-revelation. Fear of criticism. Fear of something.
Well, I don’t care what anybody else says, I’m certain that writer’s block is the same thing. Fear. And it’s usually an empty fear, a fear of one’s own making that doesn’t really exist. I’ve gazed at that first blank page and felt like I was falling into an endless hole. I’ve shoved good ideas aside for years, afraid to begin them, to develop them, to end them, to share them. I’ve been through the phenomenon enough times now to know that it’s always the result of fear, usually my own fear of myself. Before I had forty books under my belt, it was the fear of failure. My life’s biggest dream was to be a writer, and if I failed I would be a nobody, unloved and laughed at for failing. Now it’s the fear of success. If I succeed as a writer, somewhere along the line I’ll mess it all up and become a failure anyway. See how clever I am? I can booby-trap myself coming and going.
Fortunately, by now I can see writer’s block coming a mile away, and I know how to handle it. Like the terrifying boggart in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, writer’s block can be defeated by laughter. In other words, don’t believe in it. Don’t give in to it. Don’t give it power. Fear is an empty thing. If you want to write, smile a big smile, tell yourself you’re going to have a great writing session, and DO IT. Don’t hesitate and let that fear grab you. It’s not a thing from the outside that is holding you prisoner, it’s you holding yourself. All you have to do is let go.
A SIMPLE SOLUTION TO WRITER'S BLOCK
• I call this Technique: PAVLOV'S WRITER
• Its Purpose: To retrain your writing fear habits and learn to let go.
• Its Origin: I made this particular version up, but it isn't unique. There are also acting techniques that echo this idea.
You know the story of Pavlov’s dogs, right? He rang a bell before feeding them at every meal, and after awhile the dogs began to salivate merely at the sound of the bell.
You need to think of a “bell” that will be your “writing signal.” Imagine the scene: you sit down to write and you freeze. You blank out. You can’t think, you can’t write. It doesn’t matter why. What you need is a Pavlovian trigger to tell your brain to get up off its mental tuchus and shift into Writing Mode. Maybe playing certain music can be your trigger. If so, what you need to do is listen to that music for five or ten minutes before every writing session whether you have writer’s block or not. Make it part of your writing routine, your Writing Ritual, if you will. After awhile, if you ever experience Writer’s Block, just put that music on. It should help.
Or maybe you can wear a certain shirt only when you write. That official Writing Shirt will, over time, train your brain to get in gear whenever you put it on. If not a shirt, choose a writing hat, or writing socks, or a scarf — anything can work. Maybe you can drink a certain kind of tea before/during every writing session, or burn a particular incense that will, over time and practice, trigger your Writing Mode. Then if you ever have a brain freeze, drink some of that tea or burn that incense. Or whatever. Choose the trigger that will work best for you.
Important: Do not use that trigger for anything else. It must be something you employ only for writing. Lord knows you don’t want to start salivating at the wrong time….
So ends my first blog, woo! Hope you enjoyed. See ya next week! (God, I sound like a game show host...)