Imagine this: it’s winter. There’s a foot of snow on the roofs. It’s below freezing. Your boiler has packed up and there’s no heating in the house. The emergency plumber is staring at said packed up boiler with a frown.
“So can you fix it?” you ask.
The emergency plumber scratches his forehead and says: “Maybe….but not today.”
The plumber needs parts, you think. The plumber needs tools, you think. The plumber needs a new boiler, you think.
Instead the plumber says: “I’ve got Plumber’s Block.”
In this scenario you’d probably do one – or all – of the following: (a) hit the plumber, (b) burst out laughing, or (c) call a plumber who doesn’t suffer from ‘plumber’s block and can fix the packed up boiler.
You ever met a plumber with ‘plumber’s block?’ Me neither – and the reason is that they don’t exist. Most plumbers are self-employed – if they don’t fix boilers, or fit radiators, or mend leaky baths, they don’t get paid. And they don’t get ‘plumber’s block’ because they have a professional mindset.
So What’s A Professional Mindset?
Anyone who works for the man has a professional mindset. You turn up at the time you’re supposed to turn up. And you leave at the time you’re supposed to leave. And in between you do the work you’re supposed to do.
Whether you’re a plumber. Or an architect. Or a hair dresser. Or a Doctor. You get paid to do something, and you turn up and do it. And that’s a rough and ready definition of being professional at something.
Someone pays you to turn up at a specific time and perform a specific task for a specific wage. And you’re a professional at that task. And you don’t get Plumber’s Block. Or Doctor’s Block. Or Hairdresser’s Block. If you tried to call in sick with Doctor’s Block what do you think would happen to your job?
And that’s the case with EVERY job on the planet. Except writers.
Writers can’t write – ‘cos they have Writer’s block, right? Wrong. Let’s find out more about Writer’s Block.
Some Thoughts On Writer’s Block
There’s no such thing as Writer’s Block.
But – and here’s where it’s dangerous – if you believe in Writer’s Block, then it affects you as if it is real. And what Writer’s Block does is to stop you writing. And every day you don’t write it gains a bit more power.
Until one day Writer’s Block has won. It’s gained such a hold over you that you’ll probably never write again. When your friends ask you what’s happened to the blog you’ve not updated for six months, you’ll probably pull a face and say: I’ve got Writer’s Block.
And your friends will feed your writer’s block by nodding as if they understand what you are talking about. And you’ll probably feel almost content…. because you’re not someone who doesn’t write anymore, you’re someone who can’t write because you are suffering with Writer’s Block. And only a fellow artist can really understand what Writer’s Block is truly like. And…
…it’s all self-deluding bollocks.
Like the Emperor’s New Clothes. You need the boy – the wise fool in mythic stories – to laugh and say: Look, he’s naked. And snap you out of it.
Let me say it again for you: there’s no such thing as writer’s block.
So What IS Writer’s Block?
Writer’s Block is one of the ways your ego manifests itself to try and stop you writing. It does this as a form of self-protection. Your ego has been genetically programmed to help protect you since homo sapiens started evolving thousands of years ago.
(Oh, and while we’re talking about homo-sapiens, how long do you think a caveman who had ‘hunter’s block’ would last in the tribe? Not very long I’m guessing….)
Here’s how it works – your ego likes stasis and safety. If you are safe, but then try and change your behaviour patterns your ego will hate that and try to stop that new behaviour, because it perceives it as potentially dangerous. It wants you to return to the old – and safe – patterns that it knows are safe.
One of the ways it does this is with voices of self-doubt. You’re not really going to write a blog post every day for 100 days are you? You can’t do that. No, you’ll run out of ideas in 3 days. Or 5 days. Or 10 days. Much better to think about it some more, and not do anything.
Start listening to those voices and you start to give them power. And voila, you’ve just breathed life to your very own Writer’s Block.
Or you could choose to adopt a professional mindset and not get writer’s block.
How A Professional Mindset Avoids Writer’s Block
One of my favourite writing quotes come from an American Author called Peter Devries – who was asked if he wrote when he was inspired. He said: “Of course I write when I’m inspired. And I see to it that I’m inspired at 9.00 AM every morning.”
That’s the professional mindset in one sentence – the author sits down every morning at 9.00 AM and writes.
Here’s something important to remember: it doesn’t matter if you’re being paid for your writing yet. Or plan to get paid. Here’s a quote from the Audio Book version of The War of Art by Steven Pressfield: “A professional does his work every day – an amateur thinks about doing it.”
The more professional your approach to writing is, the easier it becomes. Until one day you realize that there is indeed, no such thing as writer’s block. There are other tactics you can employ to help avoid writer’s block, or the empty page syndrome too. And we’ll look at those in later articles in this series.
There’s no such thing as Plumber’s Block. Or Doctor’s Block. Or Hairdresser’s block. Right?
And there’s no such thing as Writer’s Block either.
What there is, is a legion of wannabes who like the idea of having written more than the idea of applying the seat of their pants to the seat of their chairs and actually getting it done.
And getting it done is the professional mindset: turn up at the coalface every day and start digging. The amateur wears his ‘writer’s block’ like a badge of honour.
Next time you think you may have writer’s block, think about the guy in the cold house whose plumber tells him he can’t fix the boiler because he’s got plumber’s block. When you’ve stopped laughing, start writing.