Before I ever sat down to actually become this thing called “writer,” I had heard of this other thing called “writer’s block.” I knew that it was some kind of halt in inspiration. An obstruction of the creative kind. The feeling that even though you wanted to write something (see: had to write something) the words or ideas or characters just wouldn’t come.
Flash forward ten years and here I am, an actual, real-live writer. But other things happened to me in those ten years, too. I got married. I bought a house. I became a mother-times-two. I went back to school to finish my undergrad and, after that, went back again to obtain my master’s degree. These days, I’m so incredibly busy that, admittedly, I’ve found myself silently scoffing at writer’s who talk of writer’s block. I only wish I had time for writer’s block. I’ve heard it in my head at least a dozen times this year. If you were as busy as I am, you wouldn’t get blocked either.
While it seems, at first glance, a little righteous and self-pitying, the truth of it is that the reason I’ve gone through life and several written books claiming that writer’s block has never happened to me, is because I’ve never taken time to really dissect why it is that writers get blocked and what that block looks like for me.
We’re all familiar with the image: the frazzled author-man in a stained, white v-neck t-shirt, multiple coffee mugs strewn around him, crumpled pages at his feet like an unnavigable sea. This is what we tend to imagine when we think of writer’s block. And yeah, I’ve never had this kind of writer’s block before. Instead, my notebooks are carefully stacked and organized (sometimes even color coded), my outline in front of me, my critique partner’s notes stuck to the sides of my computer, re-written on little stickies, in chronological order. But here’s the thing: for a solid amount of the time I’ve reserved each day for getting words on paper, I’m not even in front of my computer. During these times, it’s true, I’m not pulling at my hair while staring at the blank screen, worrying about my word count or stewing over my subplots. No, during these times, I’m folding laundry, talking on the phone, cleaning my already clean bathrooms or checking one of the multiple social media sites designed to help facilitate the careful art of procrastination.
But it isn’t really procrastination, is it?
That’s what I’ve learned here. After some pretty careful self-evaluation, I’ve realized that I’m no different than those writer’s block writers. Why? It’s simple. The reason my butt isn’t in my writing chair is because I’m not yet ready to write that scene. It might be my characters (it’s probably my characters.) Or it might be my plot (it’s definitely my plot.) Either way, if I were to sit in front of my computer, determined to get those words on page, I would look like that frazzled guy (without the chest hair creeping out the top of my robe, of course.)
But it’s all the same, no matter how you look at it. Writer’s Block. Now I know that it’s less being able to think of what than it is being ready to face what you’re writing because facing it, at times, feels as impossible as slaying monsters. And ever since I’ve realized that, instead of tsking at writers who talk of the block, I nod my head knowingly, lean toward them and tell them my secret: today, instead of writing, I spent three hours cleaning my baseboards with a Q-tip.
Jill MacKenzie is the author of YA read SPIN THE SKY, which will be released by Sky Pony in Fall 2016. Because Jill is currently completing her MFA at the University of British Columbia (which is kicking her a** so far she can’t even see straight), Jill spends every single second of her time writing and, of course, reading banned books.