Monday, February 15, 2010

I’m blocked… but why?

"There is no such thing as writer's block for writers whose standards are low enough." American Poet William Stafford

I am blocked from doing any interesting writing for over 2 month or so. And this post is all about the condition of being blocked in writing.

As paradoxical as it sounds, I have not been able to write anything to my satisfaction so that I can publish. In the world of writing, they say it is a condition called "writer's block". It's a terrible feeling for me as block keeps haunting on every attempt to complete a half finished work or a new one. Here I am sitting with over a dozen of unfinished posts, like a kid confused about which toy to pick and play. It is funny that not long ago, I was chatting with Parimala Shankaraiah, a (or the?) curious tester about this condition called "writer's block". I suggested to her that when blocked, try writing about it. That is what I am exactly doing now. To illustrate the influence of WB on me, I am planning to keep this post small and focused on the topic and close it as soon as possible.

For non starters, WB is a temporary mental condition of extreme self censorship leading to rejection of semi finished parts of writing as this reference suggests. Keyword here is self imposed censorship. Those getting stuck in WB, can take conform in William Stafford's statement consoling themselves with pat on their backs for their high standards of writing.

Why I am blocked on writing?

While I am not short of ideas to write, when I pick up something to write after writing few paragraphs, I start getting a strange feeling that I am repeating or the plot of writing is hypnotically drawn into a predetermined destiny. That is where I stop writing. Not sure what is happening.

WB, like inattentional blindness appears to occur when you are ultra/super focused on a topic so that you literally stop thinking. I am not sure, my state of WB has anything to do my focus (or lack of it) on writing. As defocusing tactic, I switched to twitter and tried my hand there sufficiently enough to get an attention from none other than Jon Bach. That still leaves me high and dry and I am back to WB. Another thing that I suggested to self – stop writing but speak (do pod casts) or draw/paint (cartoons etc). I need to try these channels to see if they help. I think what happens in WB is one (of several) channels of expression of thought gets blocked while keeping others intact.

One thing is sure; I am under pressure of not being able to write even though I have many "good" ideas to write. Some say WB leads to lack of motivation or happens due to lack of motivation. I am pretty sure that is not the case with me. Anxiety, fear of being ignored or failure certainly is back of my mind.

Aiming for High standards? High degree of censorship? Yes, that appears to be the case. I reject lots of writing (pile of trashed pieces of writing) as they don't qualify my own criteria to be good enough to be posted.

I don't agree to generic prescriptions like Lack of preparation, reading, and picking up boring topic leads to WB. My experience of WB is that I am blocked on those topics I deeply interested in and dying to writing something significant, lack of preparation/reading might be an issue in some cases but the in case of the ideas that are pretty original, I often avoid reading to get my flow of my "unbiased" ideas.

Well, now I am suddenly realized that I am supposed to suffering from WB…let me abruptly end this post and start mulling over the cures for WB.

Oh!!! What a relief. This post comes to an end. Have I overcome writers block? Over to you…dear reader!!!

Note: I am surprised to note that there are other types of writer's blocks such as this and this. Here the word block is intended as "collection" or "store" of useful writer tools. Same name different connotation.


Simon Morley said...

Shrini, as another form of defocussing I'd suggest doing something else (whether it's twittering, podcasting or reading, as you mention) and not worrying about it.

Even if you're not actively trying to write something your unconcious mind will be gathering data, assembling and re-assembling ideas and then one day you'll be churning out 2-3 pieces all at once (as you're in London, it's the waiting for a bus, then 2 turn up at once idea...)

Anyway, good luck with the blockage, and when you do get past it I'd be interested to read about the experience.

Shrini Kulkarni said...


Trying many defocusing ideas to help me with WB..I am feeling a "black mailer's" urgency to get on board with regular writing. Can't explain why.

Coming to list of ideas... there is no dearth of ideas. But not being able to expand the idea beyond some level. That is my problem with WB.

Right now I am struggling with this post "Richard Feynman - A great role model for software testers". I am stuck

Thanks for dropping in...


Marlena Compton said...

Simon makes an excellent point. Part of working with your creativity is knowing when to release.

I found this article in my reader today, and thought you might enjoy it. It's a bunch of artists writing about how they deal with creative blocks.

Writers block. It happens to the best of us ;o)

Anne-Marie said...

Hi Shrini,
I sometimes suffer from this, so I understand your frustration.
What helped me was to take a step back and discover my own 'niche'.
I find it so easy to look up to great testers around who blog and wish to think and have the same credibility as they.
That was until I realised that I am not they, and that looking at my own skills and qualities and drawing from that will satisfy me more.
I still do occasionally suffer a green twinge but I remind myself that comparing myself to what others achieve takes my focus away from what I can achieve.
I admire your courage for writing such a post. Good Luck and I'm sure things will right themselves soon.