I have a question for you: are you a rebel or a sweetheart?
You likely have an intuitive idea of what I'm asking, but if I had to guess, a lot of you want more information before deciding on your answer, so here goes: A rebel presents a tough front to the world. A sweetheart is far 'softer' in their dealings with others.
Now I'm going to say something that sounds a little bit crazier. Bear with me on this!: rebels and sweethearts are both like wheels.
Think of it this way: a wheel needs to have two particular components in order to work properly: it needs both a tough, and a soft, component. Either the tyre is hard so that the delicate inner structure doesn't come into contact with the road and get bent out of shape (because it's too soft to stand up to that kind of impact), or the tyre is soft and has some 'give', to prevent the brittle interior from either cracking, or giving the rider a very unpleasant and bone-shaking ride. It depends on how the wheel is made, whether a hard or a soft tyre are best.
Is the rebel and sweetheart analogy starting to make more sense yet? So, which are you? And, more to the point, what does any of this have to do with writer's block?
I'll tell you: writing is about 'seeing' and 'being seen by' other people. In order for your writing to flow, something about it has to be authentic, to come from the heart. Your rebellious/sweet side is a part of your authenticity, but it also protects another part of your authenticity to make sure it doesn't get damaged.
Keeping your authenticity to yourself in your writing is what results in writer's block.
Being rebellious is a way of saying, "I don't trust you and I don't trust your rules, so I'm going to defy them!"
That's where being a rebel can make writing difficult. What rules about writing are you rebelling against?
1. Write at least a little bit every day
2. Use your spell and grammar check tool
10. Don't over-do the punctuation
157. Watch your tenses
6,511. Read your writing aloud to yourself
50bn. Don't use too many 'extra' words when writing dialogue
Writing can be a pretty rule-heavy thing when you look at it like that, can't it? None of these are hard and fast rules, of course, but the very existence of so many writing rules (even if they're just guidance) can make writing seem a bit less, well, fun.
Whatever happened to just getting some writing ideas, and then putting them on paper (or a screen. It is 2019, after all)?
By contrast, being a sweetheart is a way to react when there are too many rules to follow, that you feel you absolutely must must follow. You feel so paralysed by the rules that you can't do anything because what if you get it wrong?
Wanting to write perfectly, or not writing at all, results in writer's block.
I can give you some ideas for how to overcome these, but the rebel ones won't help if you're a sweetheart, and the sweetheart ones won't work if you're a rebel. So let's break this down.
We're in quite the bind here right now, aren't we? If I give you any advice you might just decide not to take it (I mean, I couldn't go ahead and say you definitely won't, because then I'll have had a go at predicting your response, and you can't have that. Gah, this rebellion crap's a pain in the bum sometimes, isn't it?). So, what's a hell-raiser to do?
Here's how you overcome your writer's block. Write like a slayer. Piss us all off with words, and leave the spelling mistakes in there for everyone to trip over. Heck, don't even check for spelling mistakes if you don't want to; they're letters, not piranhas. No-one's going to get hurt!
Want to keep it to yourself because someone out there can't handle it? Okay then, but that puts you back at square one: with nothing written down. Let's be real: if someone can't deal with the story you have to write, then you've won a battle of wills, or overpowered them. Maybe censoring yourself for their sake is the answer, maybe it isn't. But it seems a shame to keep yourself quiet just because of that, doesn't it?
We all have a flock. There are people out there who will want to engage with what you have to say, its truth, and its authenticity. Put it up for them. Let them see it, and whatever will be, will be.
Writing is an art, and you are an artist. There are many people who can talk about the philosophy of artistry better than I can, but the one thing I want you to take away from this is that when creating any kind of art (visual or written), you have permission to fail.
Perhaps it's not so much that you need permission from me to write. I could give you permission to make mistakes with your writing all day, but maybe you're more concerned about the potential for being criticised. If so, take a leaf out of the rebel's book: he or she has been criticised before, just like you have, and as much as they don't want to admit it, once upon a time it hurt them too.
The trick to facing critique is to be remind yourself that it won't kill you. If someone criticises you then so what? I mean, really: so what? Yes, they might disapprove for some reason or another, but truly, does that matter? There are 7.6 billion people in the world; there will always be a few that don't like your style (in fact, you'd be surprised at the things people don't like).
So take heart. Don't put yourself through the strain of being all things to all people. Rebels have got this down like a charm, and there are still people who like them! You can do it too!
Source: Ruppert, E., 'Rebels and Sweethearts: Understanding Adaptive Styles'. TAJ 47 (3), 187-192
Wheel image by Carsten Jünger .
Tyre image by quaddles.