Saturday, 21 September 2013

The Worst Form Of Writer's Block (And How To Defeat It)

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

I'm notorious for claiming that I like blogging and making videos but then going months without releasing anything. During my productive periods, the reason this happens is always the same: I can't think of any ideas. Or so it seems at the time. The truth is, I have no problem coming up with ideas. I just censor most of them. I have in my head a certain standard that I expect from my content and if the idea doesn't seem like it will generate that standard of content, I abandon it.

Let me make an educated guess about you, the person reading this blog right now. What probably drew you to it were the words "Writer's Block", but then the phrase in brackets: "And How To Defeat It". Chances are pretty good that you are in a similar situation to me: you have some form of recurring writer's block: be it with blogging, music, poetry, a novel, a film script, a painting, or any piece of art imaginable. You probably either can't motivate yourself to do it, or, when you try, you feel you have nothing worth producing, or both. If there's a magic bullet for beating it, which is what a lot of us probably want to see when clicking on an article that claims to defeat writer's block, but realistically probably only provides advice that some people might find moderately helpful, and others won't find helpful at all; that, to me, would be the following 3 word phrase: lower your standards.

I bet you anything that, like me, when you say you have no ideas, you have quite a few. You just have a self-censorship process in your mind that has become so adept, so automatic, as to barely be noticeable on a conscious level. Here's a quick experiment. Euthanasia. Now, upon seeing that word, what comes to mind? Think to yourself everything you know about euthanasia. Next, write it down either on paper or a Word document. What do you think of what you've written? If you have the kind of highly developed ability to censor yourself as I have, you might think "utter shit". "Ill-informed, simplistic, obvious garbage that no-one would want to read and it would be an embarrassment to post." Here's my challenge to you: copy it into a blog post and post it anyway. See what kind of reaction you get, if any. Apply this to all forms of art. Upload your dissonant, out-of-tune songs to Soundcloud. Paint that painting and don't be afraid to hurl the cans of paint at the canvas like Hal does in Malcolm In The Middle. Write that clich├ęd, pun-infested cesspit of a poem. Upload either of those to Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram.

Why? It's very simple. When you post nothing, you achieve nothing. You sit there for hours, desperately trying to think of that inspired idea that never comes. Want to know why it never comes? You have no practice committing ideas to a publishing, and you have nowhere to draw ideas from. When you post, you will get some feedback somewhere. That feedback could be a simple critique of your work, or it could be discussion about it. Both are good things, regardless of whether they are positive or negative comments: an audience of people will generate more criticisms in a small period of time than you can in a larger period of time allowing you to learn faster, and the discussion that your post generates, will give you more ideas than you can come up with on your own, as well as clues to better ideas. There is only 1 perspective where negative criticism causes you to lose out: where you have a reputation to maintain. Here, the internet saves the day.

Let's imagine a completely unrealistic scenario: in the not too distant future, Orygyn has 1 million viewers, subscribers, readers, whatever it may be. As such, I have a reputation that must be upheld so I can't produce sub-standard content. If I really didn't want to risk that reputation, I'd set up a second blog, completely unrelated and unconnected to Orygyn, to make that post. Out of the hellfire of trolling and abuse that comes from posting that ignorant post will come a refined product worthy of the blog. Of course, I could still post it on Orygyn, in which case, I could turn it around by admitting my stupidity and harvesting the more plentiful diamonds that would emerge from such an episode.

Maybe you think you'll never improve. I bet you something right now. If you take my advice, you won't even need to try to improve. You'll just subconsciously do it. You will automatically notice weaknesses and gradually weed them out, all without ever consciously being aware of the process. And after a significant amount of time, you will look back and notice the difference. And it'll feel amazing. I look at my videos from when I was 19 and cringe. I look at my earliest posts on this blog and cringe. I look at relatively RECENT posts on this blog and cringe! And I'm sure a few others do as well. And here I am, laughing about it as I type this post, which I may one day also look back on and cringe. And having that reaction will mean, inarguably, that I've improved.

Arnold Schwarzenegger had 6 rules which he said he lived by. The 3rd, the most relevant to this topic, is "don't be afraid to fail". I am facing that fear right now by shamelessly ripping off that idea to frame in the context of defeating writer's block. Experience tells me this might get 100 views on a VERY good day but likely no more than 10, and probably no comments either way. But those are views I wouldn't have gotten if I didn't have the courage to post. That is writing experience, the experience of seeing ideas on a page, which can generate more, the experience of thinking and writing, all of which will benefit me, none of which I would gain by being stubborn and wallowing in my Herculean standards of myself. And, on reflection right now, I feel very good. I've done something. Anything. Just not nothing.


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