I’ve been working on a novel since last fall. When I started, words came fast and easy. But for the last several weeks, I’ve been facing Writer’s Block. I suppose it might be more accurate to call it procrastination through distraction. Granted, I’m doing other writing while I’m not making progress on the book (i.e., this blog, of course, and poetry for another project), so I am practicing my craft. But, for two months now my novel has stalled, so it’s high time I do something about it.
As my recent posts have focused on authentic living and the need to do the things that scare us, I realized I had to look more closely at where I’ve been stuck with my book, and why. (I’d actually thought this chapter complete at one point, but a thorough review uncovered issues with readability. It just didn’t sound real).
The present roadblock occurred in the middle of a dialogue between husband and wife at odds over an unexpected pregnancy.
Now, I re-read and edit my writing all the time. Some days, for whatever reason, that’s the mode I’m in, and I am quite capable in my audit. I’m not afraid to slash and burn: I might reduce the word count of a section by 60% in my first round. I’m also not above removing entire sections if they no longer serve a purpose. So, why couldn’t I make any progress on this scene? What made me want to focus on something else, every time I thought about fixing it?
I had to acknowledge a painful truth; my Writer’s Block was avoidance. I was too concerned about making the dialog “perfect,” that I was unwilling to shoot for better.
Perfectionism is the fear of failure in disguise.
When we realize fear is at the heart of a challenge, it can be tempting to treat it dismissively. However, I believe the compassionate and healthy reaction is to acknowledge our fears, no matter how illogical, as having some basis in fact. Something in our past experiences taught us to be afraid.
As I examined the nature of my fear, I began to see how it arose. First, I have a diagnosed communication disorder; one of its hallmark features is difficulty with unstructured social interaction (any situation where the rules of verbal engagement are ambiguous). A husband and wife arguing about a surprise pregnancy falls into that category. Second, as a consequence of this disorder, I’ve suffered from social anxiety my whole life. My inability to pick up on cues or intuit unspoken rules has affected my relationships with others outside of work and school. Last, because of these challenges, I’ve developed an introverted personality. I bury the needle on “I” with the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI).
Given all this, is it reasonable for me to doubt my ability to pen realistic dialogue for this chapter? Absolutely!
Cool. Am I done now? Absolutely not!
I’ve figured out the truth. Now it’s time to dare: to challenge myself to set aside perfectionism, choose a course of action, and get. it. done. (Which, in this case, is primarily sit down and write, woman! Rustle up some literary badassness, and make word processors everywhere tremble before the might of your fiction-crafting mojo!)
And so, I did. I made significant progress on that chapter today. In fact, I’m confident I’ll finish it before the weekend.