I personally believe that there’s no such thing as Writer’s Block the way this world perceives it. It is just a bad day at work. It’s about things not falling into place and the flow being interrupted repeatedly by some emotional or environmental barriers. Maybe like a batsman’s lack of form in cricket. The author battles the feeling of impotency, but no one knows better that it won’t last.
The dreaded and much-discussed Writer’s Block, though, exists prominently within the prejudices and beliefs that authors have to fight constantly. A friend once asked me, “So what is the life of an author like? She gets up in the morning, sits with a cup of coffee, and?” I had laughed and replied, “She is in no hurry to finish the coffee, reads newspapers, chats over the phone, puts on make-up, goes shopping, plans lavish investments, meets friends, and wishes everyone good night, after deciding that she’ll write some other day!”
Though said on a lighter note, this basically is the treatment that an author gets from the world. The author is meant to be a lucky fellow who is enjoying life because she has a little hold over language, which is more than negligible a quality given that we live in the era of sms lingo making things crisp and convenient. In such a set-up, the author appears with a 300-pager where she claims to have explored literature!
Instead of communicating easily and quickly, she explores and elaborates, with the twists and turns of language. The natural inference is that she must be having a lot of spare time which allows her to write, and that the bank balance that supports her doesn’t need to be replenished! The truth is, the author’s job is never taken seriously, much as you may love her book. Actually it is not treated as a “job” at all; writing is thought of as a hobby, something you do as a pastime.
Block 1: What people think we do
Recently authors across the world gleefully participated in listing #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter on Twitter, venting their frustrations openly.
"You're a writer? Awesome. What's your real job?" tweeted Paul Hudson.
“Your character is a woman. You’re also a woman! Are you the same pers–“, said Samantha Shannon.
Mel Salisbury: "’Can I be in your next book?’ Sure. In fact YOU are my next book. I'm going to use your skin for the pages.”
Peter LaBerge: "Oh my husband's half-brother's cousin's cat writes poems, maybe you guys can collaborate."
Baratunde: “Can you get me published?”
Reni Eddo-Lodge: “I really like your work! Will you write for us? Oh, we don't pay.”
The last two are, of course, the most frequently repeated questions, understandably so. Thanks to social media, anyone can reach out to a writer in the hope of a shortcut to being published. And then there are the promises of “exposure” and “publicity” from publications that cannot, however, pay because of “tight budgets”.
Block 2: What publishers think we do
The demands from the publisher tend to block an author in multiple ways. However, this is one space which is often messed up because of the rigidities of both author and publisher. A well-known writer friend of mine has an ambitious manuscript talking about some funny and weird practices of publishers. Not surprising, no publisher has shown any keenness about putting out a book with such blatant disclosure of facts, with most of them demanding that the writer tones down the satire, which the writer in question refuses to do.
And then I have known authors who have had bitter experiences with their editors. An author is usually very emotional with her words and finds a purpose in each of her paragraphs. She often forgets that the editor is the first reader, who is reacting without any personal attachment. As for editors, they sometimes fail to understand that at the end of the day a book represents the author’s voice and vision. Teamwork would be rewarding, but ego conflicts take over.
Block 3: What the marketing people think we do
In the last few years the publishing business has undergone paranormal changes. While these changes have organised business and boosted sales, they have also posed a fundamental block for authors.
Writing is no longer a personal journey, where an writer writes from her heart and tells stories that are a part of her soul. There’s a great deal of the commercial brain involved today, and publishers want saleable products. If it doesn’t translate into sales, then even a literary masterpiece is a bad investment.
I empathise when an author like Paula Whyman expresses her disgust when asked “How much did you sell your book for?” Many others second her emotions and lament how numbers and figures often put unfair pressures on the thinking minds of authors. That’s both sad and practical at the same time. With marketing strategies planned meticulously, the practice of artificial selling has largely displaced organic selling! The promotional push sometimes dangerously support undeserving authors, thus making the content of books suffer in the long run.
A Lebanese painter had once told me that she encounters something called “artsy coma”, which sometimes lasts for months, during which she just can’t grasp her vision appropriately. But this phase is never permanent. What seems permanent, rather, are those social, political and economic factors which restrict her from expressing freely on canvas.
I reckon the same holds true for authors. Writer’s Block is not necessarily something that exists in the a writer’s brain, choking the flow of thoughts. It is a much bigger truth in the world of the writer because external forces tend to block her with greater power, unreasonably insulting her talents in the process.
Koral Dasgupta is the author of Fall Winter Collections and Power of a Common Man.
Respond to this article with a post
Share your perspective on this article with a post on ScrollStack, and send it to your followers.