I met writer Jessica Fairfax earlier this year and I’ve had the pleasure of hearing some of her brilliant ideas. Jessica is a brilliant person, bursting with enthusiasm for writing and it was really kind of her to come along to the last Noir at the Bar NE.
Thanks to Jessica for coming to talk to us today about an all too common problem faced by writers: writer’s block.
By Jessica Fairfax
What exactly is this? Is it where a thousand ideas, or even just one or two, are swirling in your head and you just can’t get them onto paper? Is it where you stare blankly at a notepad, or computer screen, then clean the house from top to bottom, make endless cups of hot something and remain awake until the next day and do this all over again and again… and again? This doesn’t always just go on for hours, days, maybe weeks. No, no, this can go on for years! I know. When researching this topic, and having experienced this myself for two decades on and off, a valued accountant friend gave her opinion on the subject.
If you have writer’s block for ages, like years, are you not just a failed writer and maybe you should go and do something else for a hobby?
It is a condition I tell her.
Her eyebrows raised above her hairline.
It isn’t though, is it? She responded with a tone. She continued (unfortunately). It is a case of someone (someone being me!) having no ideas, or if they have, they just can’t do anything with them. I could say I have writer’s block. I have ideas but have no idea how to make them into a viable piece of work constituting a novel, or such like, so I go and get a proper job like an accountant for instance and swim. I swim as a hobby. Just carry on with your day job and, I don’t know… come swimming with me, or go to Zumba twice a week, you’d love that, yeah, do that! Leave the writing to someone who doesn’t… get… get this block thing you have. You know, the proper writer types that have nothing else going on in their lives.
I didn’t go into how even the most acclaimed writers have suffered with this affliction from time to time.
So, writer’s block, failed writer, or an underestimated psychological condition first described in 1947 by the psychologist Edmund Belger? Whatever it is, it is frustrating and debilitating in terms of being a type of creative brain freeze. At first, I tried writing lists, deadline setting, and discussions with fellow writers and even swimming – yes, I did go with her – and meditation to clear my mind to help me start afresh. Physically I felt pretty good but everything I tried to do to eradicate the writer’s block, ultimately resulted in an exceptionally clean house and a belly full of coffee! My creativity was stifled… suppressed by something I could do nothing about. Eventually, without really acknowledging when exactly, the notepad got left in the house in a drawer and the PC wasn’t even turned on. I tried less and less and eventually told people that other life events had taken priority over my aspirations to become a novelist. I had a busy job anyway and a baby and Zumba. I could get away with it with friends and family but the reality was, I felt like a failure. The confidence went. Was I a failed writer? Was I a writer?
Years on, I am starting to write again. It isn’t a whoosh of creativity, as others describe but more of a slow drip, drip, drip onto the page. Confidence is coming back. I am enjoying writing and that is what it is all about for me.
How I came to suffer this condition, I don’t know. How it went away again, I have no idea. I just know that writer’s block does not mean you aren’t a writer. Perhaps my brain just needed time.