Readers may have heard of writer’s block, writers may say they’ve had the affliction, the rest don’t care.
Readers care when they’re waiting for their favourite author’s next work and it’s not forthcoming.
Writers care when they sit and stare at the page and it remains resolutely blank. For hours, and days, and weeks. Do you get the picture?
Actually, I don’t. Either writing is a job or a hobby.
If it’s a hobby, you can do what you want. Some of you probably talk about writing far more than you actually write. But that’s fine. When asked what your interests are it’s so much easier to reply “Writing” rather than “Talking about the writing I’m planning to do one day”.
If it’s a job, you take it as seriously as you take any job where you go to the office and do your contracted hours. You may like it or not, you may have a bad day or a brilliant one, but you do your work or you risk the consequences.
Using a previous self as an example, when I worked as an administrative assistant I never had only one job on at the same time. I had reports to run, spreadsheets to complete, minutes to take and write up, invitations to send out, phone calls to make and so on. If I couldn’t complete a table immediately because data was missing, I wouldn’t stare at the blank template until someone had uploaded the information. I would do something else and come back when the system was up to date.
It’s the same with writing as a job. Many writers have more than one piece on the go, but for now, let’s assume writer Z is working on her ultimate novel. This is the masterpiece. It is her non plus ultra in the making. It will be the turning point in her career, the one that will lift her from obscurity to international recognition, translated into 125 languages. If only she wasn’t stuck on Chapter 3, line 27.
If you cannot write Chapter 3, line 28 because your heroine has just defied you and you cannot for the life of you figure out what you’ve done to offend her, you are missing the information to progress – for now. Like the poor administrator who has to slog away in a 9-5 office, change focus. Move on to Chapter 5 and describe what the hero looks like as he rides into the picture on his motorbike, clad in sexy leathers, with a Chihuahua in his saddle bag. Then jump to Chapter 9, where they kiss for the first time and suddenly Chapter 3, line 28 writes itself. Your mental image of your heroine has been updated.
But this type of block wasn’t at all what I was thinking about when I posed the question in the title.
My reality is that writing is more than a hobby. I want to take it as seriously as a job, but… I’m not independently wealthy, nor do I have a partner who covers the household bills. I haven’t yet found my audience who will buy sufficient quantities of books between them so I can live off the proceeds.
So the block that I’m talking about is the obstacle that keeps me from writing full time: Jobs that pay guaranteed money.
I’m working on so many in order to earn my writing time that I take away from it, too.
I mark exams seasonally. It’s one of the seasons at the moment, so the last time I looked at Leonie was 5 days ago. Not because I don’t want to, but because scripts are available in tightly controlled windows and not conveniently spread out over the year. I think about Leonie every day. She’s like a child who’s gone abroad. I wonder what she’s doing, how she’s feeling, how she will manage to deal with the challenges she’s going through. Last time I wrote her, she was in hysterics.
I’ve finally landed another part time job, 20 hours a week, to bring in regular money between the seasonal top-ups. Next week, I have my induction, the week after I start. I’m really excited. For that job I’m on my feet for four hours, the perfect foil to sitting and writing. It’ll keep the spreading middle under control.
In addition, I’m working on a little business, a plan B, which, with consistent input of a few hours a week, can build into something substantial a few years down the line. It is something that can fit into the nooks and crannies of life.
Where my writing is concerned, all these jobs are obstacles I resent, but without them, I wouldn’t be writing at all. I’d have long since lost my house and the will to do anything with and for myself.
Reality Check 2
No jobs = loss of everything = no writing
Part time jobs = regular income = part time writing
Writing is still a job, which I can treat as such. While it’s wonderful to go into the zone (all writers and artists will know what I mean) and not come out for 8 hours, it’s equally satisfying to find it for 30 minutes, 2 hours or maybe even 4 when I can.
I will complete Leonie and the next few in the series, I will write Nina and Lom’s anthology, I will come back to all the other big projects that have taken permanent residence in my brain, including the alternate ego that will write for younger readers.
This is where writing is different from a 9 to 5 office job. It isn’t restricted to a certain number of hours per week on particular days. It is flexible to fit into my life. As I am self-published, even my deadlines are self-imposed.
So what if I haven’t written Leonie for 5 days, or if I haven’t had time to post and share happiness on Facebook. So what if I will not publish the next book by the end of May, but by the end of June instead.
What’s important is to recognise that what I saw as a block, as an obstacle, isn’t. It’s an enabler.
I will make myself proud and complete one writing project after another.
When my audience finds me, I’ll be ready for them.