The Real Writer’s Block

It’s difficult to understand why I decided I wanted to be a writer. Whenever a successful author is asked to give one piece of advice to the masses it’s always the same – “just don’t do it.” Discouraging? Yes. But true? Certainly. Once you’ve spent a couple of months trying to write professionally you quickly realise just how tough it really is.

You realise that it’s not quite as simple as sitting down and writing a fully-fledged novel. That book you’ve just read that seemed to flow so well, was so organic and captivating and real, that didn’t just spring fully formed from a printer a few weeks or even a few months ago. It was designed. Every scene was crafted in a particular way using tried and tested techniques, every character created specifically to influence the reader’s emotions, to tug their thoughts this way and that in the most economic and effective way possible. It’s a wonder all successful writers don’t receive honorary degrees in psychology.

And it takes motivation. Easy for some, not so easy for others (like myself, for example). In November 2009 I was one of many thousands who undertook National Novel Writing Month, wherein I accepted the challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. That’s an average of 1,667 words every day. It made my University dissertations look puny in comparison. But I managed it, eventually. Now consider that this novel was for personal gratification and not written to a standard worthy of public consumption. It took me three months to get Heavenbloom into a state that was vaguely publishable, and that was only 7,000 words long. Add in the fact that most novels weigh in at 100,000 words rather than a mere 50,000 and generally come with a four to six month writing deadline from their publishers and you’re starting to get an idea of why the best of the best say “just don’t do it.”

So you overcome these obstacles and have a piece of work you think people will want to read. Now what? Yet more obstacles. The big-selling, Waterstones-stocking publishers don’t accept work from just anybody, they take writings approved and marketed by the best editors in the business. And how do you get one of these editors to champion you? Simple, just have a piece of work that’s really impressive, and hopefully a track record of good sales. But how do you get sales if nobody will accept your work because you haven’t got an editor? That’s the REAL writer’s block! To write you need the mentality of a man willing to attack an iceberg with a pickaxe. A really big, ship-sinking iceberg. And a really small, blunt pickaxe. Just don’t do it.

If all this is true then why have I wanted to be a writer since age eleven? If I’d known then how much effort it would take would I have still wanted to be one? The answer is yes, of course! I’ve always wanted to be a writer because I enjoy writing! I’ve yet to hear of a successful author who doesn’t. Why do those authors say don’t do it when it comes to writing? Because the majority of people don’t like being told their work is crap 4/5ths of the time, and don’t like being paid in pennies 1/5th of the time. But if that doesn’t apply to you, if you write first and foremost because it’s fulfilling, then do it, do it, do it. There ARE publishers out there who will give you a chance, who look for hard workers and not just the big names, AND are willing to pay! Don’t give up. Because you know the second piece of advice those successful authors always give the hopefuls – when in doubt, just keep on writing”

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