I’ve just finished watching a documentary on Ernest Hemingway, considered by many as one of the literary giants of the 20th century. I learned that he was often plagued by self-doubt when it came to starting a new novel, and this got me thinking about the term ‘writer’s block’ and wondering whether it really exists or whether it is purely a psychological condition.
If novel writing is based to some extent on our life experiences, albeit dressed up in fictional characters and events, then it isn’t illogical to suppose that they can be there for us one minute, but can disappear the next.
Perhaps it’s more accurate to describe the impediment of writer’s block in terms of a ‘problem of access’ due to the complexity of the human condition, since most people have witnessed how their mood can change from one day to the next without any explicable reason.
A more plausible explanation for writer’s block might be down to the extremes of which many of us writers are sometimes guilty, when it comes to viewing our own work. On the one hand, it’s tempting to consider one’s latest magnum opus as the greatest thing since sliced bread purely because of the huge effort expended on it over months and often years before it has finally seen the light of day. Conversely, a disparaging assessment might be the result of previous success and the fear of being unable to maintain it.
The truth may lie somewhere in between. That’s of course if you’re like Norman, my alter ego, who discovered, when he began tracing his ancestry to see if there was a genetic predisposition to his level of underachievement, that there was something far more important than success or failure.
The resilience to keep on going whatever the world might throw at him!
John Steinberg ©2021