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 Membership What is Writer's Block?

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@KainZilla 's post in this thread got me thinking about this, specifically this quote:

 

Quote

"Writers like coming up with terms, so we invented a whole new one for 'procrastination,' even though we didn't need to."  Writing is the only task where people think putting off doing it is an essential, even noble, part of the process. Nobody has ever died because their doctor had surgeon's block. Adolescents aren't starving to death in the halls of their school because the cafeteria team has cafeteria team's block. Imagine complaining to your boss about burger flipper's block.

 

 

I've always thought that 'writer's block' and 'lack of muse' were excuses we gave ourselves when we felt bad about simply not really feeling like writing at the moment. I've always had the habit of setting a time for posting in my schedule, so that posting is just as a fixed part of my day as making dinner or going to the gym. And I've pretty much always thought I had it completely right, and other people really just had to either be more disciplined or get honest with themselves. 

 

That is, until I started writing a PhD. Now, I'm literally paid for sometimes sitting for 8 hours a day looking at my computer screen and not writing. I've got a close friend who was paid for sitting on his computer for six months and not writing. I don't think it counts as procrastination because we're not delaying writing and playing around on facebook, we're actively sitting there, and trying, and despairing about how it doesn't come out the way it should. I've gone through weeks of barely writing a paragraph a day, and then suddenly out of the blue I'll be writing ten pages in one sitting. Of course, the thing is that I'm not doing nothing when I'm sitting at my desk and looking miserably at the wall in front of me, I'm actually thinking, organizing ideas and maturing what I have to say, so that one day I get to the office with my head clearer and it just flows.

 

So I'm now acknowledging that maybe 'lack of muse' is the actual truth for why people don't post sometimes, and I have just not experienced it when roleplaying because I don't take it seriously enough for it to be a problem to me.

 

What do you think? Is lack of muse a real thing? Can it just be forced through? Do you ever just sit in front of your computer actively not getting any posts out? Will you tell the guys in charge of my scholarship that I admitted I spend weeks without working sometimes?

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Ooh, I love this topic too. Such a good one. 

 

I think muses can get tired, which is a valid excuse to take a break, but I also agree with @Morrigan. Lack of time and mucky stories are likely the biggest component to writer's block. My own personal experience started when my life got hectic with graduate school, then residency, then planning a wedding, then buying a house. The minute all of those stresses were gone, however, my muse jump-started right back up.  So I do agree that a lack of muse is a valid thing. Very valid. I don't think I would call it procrastination. I would call it a perfect storm when it comes to dealing with stresses outside of writing in addition to the stresses that come with writing, if that makes sense. 

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To be clear, the quote in OP of this thread was not mine but one I was, myself, quoting. Though I wish it were mine.

 

I think @Kit the Human hit the nail directly on my sentiments. "Lack of Muse" is not the reason RPers aren't writing, it is the affectation that they give themselves to make it sound noble. I wish people would acknowledge the real reasons.

 

Real reasons such as:

* I do not have the time.

* I am bored of this character/plot and do not enjoy writing this.

* There are other things in my life that are more important.

* I am stressed and do not feel up to it.

* I have written something that I am not satisfied with and want to refine it.

* I would rather just hang out in the cbox.

* I just don't want to try right now. Period.

 

I feel like the "I don't have a muse" excuse has been leaned on harder and harder in recent years as a way of divesting yourself from responsibility. It is one of those things that nobody ever expects to be challenged. It really is something that frustrates me endlessly to see.

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I agree with @KainZilla and with Morrighan's writer.  For me, writer's block means one of these cases:

 

- I feel generally overwhelmed or something else is stressing me out in real life, and I can't focus on writing until the problem is solved or (if I am only emotional after a fight with my mother) settled.

- I am too tired to be able to think properly and I will be able to write tomorrow.

- I need more research for writing that story. I can't write if I don't see the scene clearly in my mind. If I don't see what they are actually doing during the storm scene, or what's on their table at the wedding, I can't describe it, so back to research.

- I don't know what to do next, so a brainstorming with the writing partner (or, when no communicative writing partner, with others) helps getting me unstuck.

 

And yes, it can be powered through, but only after the research and the good rest.

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I find that I have to be in the right mood for writing. This means I hate distractions, I hate interruptions, I hate it when there's notes and ideas I've taken for writing and can't find them, I hate trying to write and finding that I'm coming down with a cold or something. I hate it when something bad happens to pull me out of the mind set I was in. I hate it when I intend to write, but for some reason or other, I cannot because I find that the energy to concentrate is just not there. Unfortunately, I find that these things can come on so quickly that an hour before I could have started writing, but when I finally get around to sitting down and actually doing it, I just can't.

 

I never used to have this problem when I was younger, but these days, I do. I think it's down to being older (because we seem to accumulate insecurities and anxieties as we get older and just generally becoming tired through age, or developing medical conditions which we didn't have as young folk. Those insecurities and anxieties I thought would go away when I was younger as I gained more experience, but they don't - they evolve, but you don't lose them.) and because I'm a carer for someone with depression and his moods sometimes drain what energy I have.

 

In regards to academic writing, the block comes at the start, - you don't know how to start it. How I got around this I would write notes on what I wanted to include, go away, leave it for a while, and then come back to it another time. It gave me a chance to think about it and organize my thoughts on it, and to also find extra information. Then, I'd do a first draft, leave it, come back to it later and see if there was anything I wanted to add, or change the wording around a bit because it seemed clumsy or stunted. Another problem is that you don't want your writing to look stupid or amateurish when it's going to be reviewed by others so I think that adds to your anxiety.

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12 hours ago, Morrigan said:

The story got messed up somewhere so I have to go back and fix it to move forward.

I think this is going to change my life? I had never thought about it, but now that I do it just seems so simple and obvious that it might be a solution even for academic writing! 

 

I also have a question for those saying that lack of muse or writer's block are stated instead of the real reasons for not posting. Is it a problem? If we all know it is a real problem caused by real reasons, isn't it okay for people to just say 'hey, writer's block today, will tag you later' and not really self-analyse on why they can't write right now? I'm thinking about this as I write, and I've always been that person whose eyes rolled all the way to the moon whenever someone mentioned 'muse'!

 

(@Icewolf (I can't tag on mobile?), unfortunately when it comes to academic writing, it's always difficult for me: at the start, halfway through it, at the end. I think it's how precise you have to be that really gets to me) 

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1 hour ago, Stat said:

Is it a problem?

 

I think that it CAN be.

 

This is me over-analyzing the situation so it may not be wholly accurate but I'm going to shoot with it anyways. 

 

When people use the 'no muse' excuse, it is often used as a get out of jail free sort of statement. By divesting themselves of responsibility and placing it on an outside source (and no, I do not believe that they, in most cases, actually believe this, nor does their receiver), they are just handwaving away their part in the exchange. While this may not seem like a big deal, it snowballs. The 'no muse' player isn't just failing to disclose their reasons for not posting to their partners (which they have no actual responsibility to do, really), but they are failing to admit these things to themselves.

 

The 'no muse' player will continue to fall back on the excuse and it begins to become endemic of laziness. This player will set up fantastic plots with other players, sometimes a lot of different ones. Sometimes this player will get heavily involved in larger site-plots. They will often excitedly get into plotting and get others excited for this plotting.

 

And then they just won't post. They have 'no muse'. It's not their fault. And everyone sits around and coddles that excuse, while in private they get increasingly agitated that their plots and threads are gummed up. 

 

Every reason that I listed above as valid is equally fitted with the sub-point of "- and I don't feel like trying right now." The real problem is that by shuffling off responsibility, the player never has to confront their issues and work on getting over/past them. And as much as they invoke the 'muse', the answer isn't just going to wing to them.

 

 

I will be the first to admit that I haven't been up to date on my posts in a long time. But I will always take responsibility for myself.

 

((If you can't tell, this is a topic on which I have a not insignificant degree of passion and irritation.))

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1 hour ago, Stat said:

I also have a question for those saying that lack of muse or writer's block are stated instead of the real reasons for not posting. Is it a problem? If we all know it is a real problem caused by real reasons, isn't it okay for people to just say 'hey, writer's block today, will tag you later' and not really self-analyse on why they can't write right now?

 

Personally I expect 2000 words on why you're not feeling it on any given day, along with proper MLA citation and referencing at least ten primary sources.

 

:nerd:

 

Nah honestly? I don't need the nitty gritty details, just a brief "hey I'm tired today" is cool. Also gives everyone a chance to wax lyrical on the glories of sleeping.

 

I was thinking about it on the way home and figured that the reason writers block/no muse bothers me is because it's a downer and a full stop end of discussion sentence. When people invoke the mystical forces, I feel like they're not open to suggestions on getting it back? and if you do sympathise and so on, I feel like it gives the community a general air of: we don't actually write. It just feels negative to me, if that makes sense?

 

Whereas a vague stress/tired/headache reason is easy to be caring and upbeat about, so the responses you get give the community a positive feeling.

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In my humble and quite amateur writer's opinion, Writer's Block is a real thing. The reasons for it vary as many in this thread have stated. And, some RPers use writer's block or the lack of muse as an excuse because they just don't want to write and don't want to tell you that. Honestly, I'd respect it more if my writing buddy would just say, "This scene is boring me to tears, can we just scrap it?" I'd either offer to take their bits out and finish it myself or agree to scrap it, depending on how much work had been put into it and on how it affected my character(s).

 

Some days you get up and just do not want to be bothered with writing.

 

We actually accept Writer's Block as a reason for delaying answering tags or taking a leave of absence. It's our euphemism for everything from "I just need a break" to "am sick but don't want to share the details". We really don't need to know the deep, dark secret of why someone isn't writing, just let us know so we don't stall out.

 

Numerous things will elicit the writer's block response from me: being over tired or ill, not getting any feedback or help with the scene from my writing partner (i.e. I'm doing all the pushing while they do nothing but react), veeerrrrrryyyyyyy loooooonnnnnngggggg deeeeelllllaaaaaayyyyyysss in answering tags (I lose interest in the scene - although I do a little better as long as I kind of know what's going on with the other person), when I've initiated the scene because I felt like I had too in order to get someone more engaged but, like above, they are not really doing much to move the scene forward.

 

Yes, the lack of muse excuse kinda annoys me. I have a plethora of voices in my head and sometimes certain voices are louder than others. Like right now, I have a new bio that wants written. However, I am in control of these voices. When I really need to write, I can write. It's just easier and flows betters if the voices are being loquacious. When I no longer control the voices and make them do my bidding rather than the other way around - well..... 

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I think muse is a real thing, cause sometimes even if i can't write at a specific moment, I have characters and stories running through my head, looking for an outlet. so I might say, "I have muse, but i'm busy," or "I have muse but it's not coming out right."

Lack of muse does have reasons that could be stated too, or instead of the shortcut, but even though we are writers, we can't always voice the reasons there might be. We may not know where the story got messed up, or where things need fixed right away, and may need to step back before we can figure things out.

I don't view no muse as a valid excuse if a player seems to have motive and ideas for other situations. I am a believer in the idea that muse can be forced in a pinch. When nearing a deadline, people tend to find ways to get the work done even if they really aren't feeling up to it. There aren't really deadlines for many creative works, but if necessary I think writers can push themselves into the same mode and push through.

Blocks of course are just as real. I don't view a block as simply not feeling it. I view it as a period of no matter how much you want to write, or create or move forward, you can't. You try, but the work feels terrible, and no amount of re-writing, revising or starting over, seems to fix it. A block is when you can't force it. You can't meet the deadlines, even self imposed ones for anything. It really can last months.  I've recently been in such a rut, (not with writing) and the only thing i could really do was ride it out, and not let it stop me from trying to create.

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I think my idea of no muse/writer's block matches a lot of what has been said here.

 

I guess if I were to differentiate them, I would say that muse is more of an internal thing - stress, rl stuff - and writer's block external - something's wrong with the story.  For me, I really like an explanation that's bigger than "no muse" because I always get worried that my partner decided they didn't like the rp, and isn't going to talk to me to try to work it out.

 

But I never say I personally have no muse, because I will force it every time.  I just put down a laundry list of what needs to be responded to (my yes) and what would be a logical and useful next step (my and).  There's benefits and detractions, because I usually feel like my writing is bad when I do this, but sometimes getting on to the next round of posting is what I have to do to get past it.

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