05 March 2011

Writer's Block:
The Hidden Dragon

The Hidden Dragon of Writers Block

Writer's block has many causes and cures. It is a symptom that can have multiple sources. In this series on writer's block, I have tried to cover all of them. Now, however, it is time to cover less popular subjects. In this essay on writer's block, we will face off with one our dragons. Slaying this dragon can be maddening and, often times, extremely difficult. It takes diligence, courage and even humility.

I have labeled this writer's block essay The Hidden Dragon so that the real title would not drive you away. Some would run away scared. Some might put their chins up and say "not me!" I am sorry to say that this hidden dragon has burned us all, to the last man (and woman.) No one is immune to this debilitating monster. No one.

I must emphasize this point very clearly because people so desperately want this ugly truth to not be true. Give it a chance and read on, because this might just save your writing.

Deadly Writers Block
One of the deadliest forms of writers block is: You don't know what you are talking about. That is the title that I chose not to put up at the top. What do I mean when I say you don't know what you're talking about? It's actually quite simple. So very often we hear things in speech or read them in print and we believe we have it down when we don't. We think we understand. Unfortunately, it is not always true. It is not only possible to misunderstand a concept you think you know, it is staggeringly common. That's right, you think you know what you are talking about but you don't. This is truly a hidden dragon. How do you uncover what it is you don't know if you don't know what it is you don't know? These little landmines exist throughout our writing lives and we walk right past them; most of the time, that is. Sometimes we step right on them. Caboom.

It can be quite embarrassing to be called out on something you don't know. The other day I put an est ending on a word when I should have used more. I felt foolish. That is the nature of the trap. We do not want to admit that we don't know. We're supposed to know everything, right? I write every day to earn my living and yet there I was using a word that made me look stupid. Should I go off to live with the mountain-folk? No, I just had a blind spot.

The first step of the cure is humility. Admit it. There are things you don't know everything about. Don't fight it. It's true. The only way to overcome this one to face it head on. Shying away means never solving the problem. Remember; smart people ask questions. If you don't fix what you don't know, you remain ignorant. So fix it.

Put your face in a simple dictionary or research book and educate yourself. I pulled out a dictionary and looked up my word from the other day. The dictionary said I was wrong too. Curse you, Merriam-Webster. But the next time I use that word, it will be used correctly. I cured my blind spot.

So what in the heck does all this have to do with writer's block?

Not understanding a concept you added to your own writing can clog your creative flow. Let's say you give your character a gun. Do you own and shoot a gun? I don't. Don't break into my house, however, because I have a really terrible ghetto sword I found out back of a rental I was painting back in 95. But about this gun. Are you using words specific to gun parts or gun use? Do you really know what they mean? Did you pick a specific style of gun for your character? Do you really know what that gun is about and what makes it unique? You stand an excellent chance of not knowing what you are talking about. You laid your own landmine.

These poorly understood little devils can weary our pace and bring our writing to a stop. Do an about-face and look your hidden dragon in the eye. Yes, yes, this can create a lot of work. But really, why are you adding things to your writing that you don't really know about? Your readers will bust you. Don't think they won't.

Do Research to Fight Writers Block
Do your research. Find out what you need to know to dispel the confusion you have. If not, then don't explain the gun -or whatever it is you mentioned- to the reader. I don't recommend this lesser path. Get on-line or go down to the book store and find out what you need to know. It can be a lot of fun. Personally, I'll use any excuse to go to the book store and buy a new book. This is a good one.

Once you have applied humility to get past your ego, used courage to face a research book, and worked with diligence to get through your studies, your writer's block should be handled. You can now surge forward an educated writer. Your writing will sound much better after this. Your reader will  be able to tell that you know what you're talking about -and you will.

Writers Block Overview
Overview: Discover the poorly researched hidden dragons in your writing and purge them.

I hope this helps. Come back again soon for the next essay on writer's block.

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