Saturday, July 12, 2014

Let's talk about writer's block and collectively get beyond this myth.

Hi Everybody, hope this writing finds you and yours well and happy.

I was surfing around creative writing hash tags and found a young writer's community post on writer's block.

I was happy to find somebody was trying to move past this false issue in the world of writing, and replied to their post approving of their efforts by asking them to help ban this myth as I often try to do when I run across it's pesky, comfortable with dysfunctional regurgitation emergence in threads here and there across the internet.

The original poster, named Sihamm wrote back and vigorously defended the existence of writer's block, claimed it was substantiated in several books and then challenged me as to, 'Who was I to dispute this writer's term?'

Well, its not a term, its a notion, and a false one as you will see by the end of this blog.

Those of you who know me as an ex-marine, performer, author and internet entrepreneur know I relish a good challenge, so herein is my response to the young, aspiring author operating so dangerously on the edge of mythic paradigms:

To wit: I give you..


Written by

Arthur William Hermansen

Copyright 2014 / All Right Reserved

I understand and recognize your community was formed to ban the myth. Your headline said, "AGAINST WRITER'S BLOCK WE FIGHT." You are talking about writer's block in your statement, are you not? The inability to write? Is that what your group is about?

I assumed so, because that is how and what I responded to. I can tell your use of the English language is limited, because of the easy misinterpretation of the definition of words. Your community is not "us" formed to ban this, it 'is' or 'was' formed to ban this myth.

Let me help you immeasurably, and you may thank me later.

Many books may have been written about writer's block, but it does not exist.

It is as big a myth as when people thought the earth was flat, but were not willing to change their point of view until they were proven wrong.

There are many myths I controvert.

Take a look at each one of those books. Then check the copyright date of the book (I assume you know how to check the copyright date in a book. Every writer should.) 

With the professional publishing understanding manuscripts for books are often completed often a year before the date of copyright in order to follow the old fashioned method of publishing, recognize that if you have a bunch of books with copyright dates at least five years old, then you are referencing books (which as educated opinions of authors at best) that are frankly conceptually out of date. Discovery moves far too fast for yesterday's news.

They wrap fish in it, as we say in show business.

Even then people often did not change their point of view until they died because they were stubborn, stupid or proud, or any mix of the three. Or worse, read the books of people who were, as we say in Democracy, 'dangerously misinformed.'

Most professional writers in film, television and literature will tell you writer's block does not exist, and I am among them, having written for half a century, and performing live onstage for half that time as a comedian and storyteller.

That's probably twice as long as you are old. So listen to the voice of experience. Carefully.

There is nothing wrong with the process of writing. A thousand books have been written on a hundred or more approaches, and I have read most of them. You pick up a pen or pencil or turn on your computer, and you start working. If you can't work, there is nothing wrong with the computer, pencil or pen, there is something wrong with your head.

What is wrong with your head is a head issue, not a writing issue. That simple, clarified distinction should be the beginning of the dawn of your understanding about this issue.

Now I will describe for you in great detail, out of the goodness of my heart, from the vast experience and education I have had in writing for decades, to a total stranger somewhere else in the world that it is not really an issue, but a process.

This misunderstanding has been popularly created by pseudo-psychology from conceptual writers eclipsed in the legacy of the romantic era, the 'self enchanted era' more than a hundred years old (here in the West we call it 'Frontier Psychology').

The next thing you need to know about the myth of writer's block is that just because you cannot work on a story, and believe yourself to be blocked, that assertion alone does not account for the creative process within which writing works, unless you are a dictionary or encyclopedia writer.

You are not one of those, are you Sihaam? I didn't think so, so let us continue.

The creative process is a semi-conscious process (meaning there is part of your conscious mind [the here, now, in a few minutes, in one hour, tomorrow, next week, next holiday and facts, details and specifics] and part of your subconscious mind [the maybe, what if, I wonder, symbolism and concepts and more we have yet to identify because science and philosophy are not high up on the subject try as they might]).

So you have two parts of you that work together when you are creating a story, a plot, a character, a scene or a bit of dialogue. Creating means: writing, painting, dancing, sculpture, graphic design, new recipe, new outfit, etc.

Still with me? Good. I'm banking on your intelligence and objectivity; always a risky proposition, but the best place to work from.

The conscious, rational part of your mind is aware of the passage of time. The creative faculty draws upon the subconscious for abstract ways to figure things out, because calling on the rational (your 'A,B,C' part of your brain) doesn't do very well many kinds of abstraction (your ‘script, pictograph, cuneiform – why were we developing language to begin with?’ part of your brain).

An example of abstraction - so you are completely clear - is going from a simple abstraction like, "Men sometimes go fishing" (something undoubtedly true though you have no direct evidence with your eyes to confirm it until you see men on a boat in a lake confirming it at a some time in the past, present or future) to a complex abstraction (or more distant from simplicity, better put) such as, "In the story written about fishing by the great science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, men go fishing on a watery moon circling another planet where the man have giant fishing rigs and boats because the fish are the size of great monsters who can easily destroy the boat and fishermen if they are not extremely careful in every fishing step they take." 

That is what the sport of fishing represents in that story concept and execution in abstract.

Get the idea of abstraction now, Sihaam?

Abstraction can be simple or sophisticated. Each has requirements of thinking time, whether easier rational thinking, or more challenging and time consuming abstract conceptual or creative thinking.

It took you a tenth of a second to assure yourself men do go fishing. It may have taken a great creator like Ray Bradbury five months to think of a sophisticated abstraction about men going fishing on another planet in the future. And at the time he wrote the story, he had been writing abstract science fiction for decades and was considered at the time one of the three top science fiction writers in the world and possibly for all history to date.  
It is good to consider the word 'story' is the most of the word 'history', not only from the adage, 'history is written by the victors'.

I have written science fiction for 25 years and personally think, but it is just my experienced opinion - I never asked Ray trivial questions - that he probably outlined the story in about an afternoon or less.  That doesn't account for the time he took to think creatively about the story. I think that is about how long it would take me.  Because he was a better writer than I am, he probably did it in less time than I could.

Let's get back to the lesson, then. 

Your subconscious mind, as opposed to your conscious mind, is not aware of the passage of time. It is not part of its faculty. It is a time nonrecognition faculty. Let's establish that.  I suggest, but cannot verify yet, this was an evolutionary trade off in exchange for other abilities.  
Another trade off I suggest is that your creative faculty does not hand you a linear narrative when solving creative problems.  It depends on the complexity and/or the degree of abstraction of the problem it is solving as to when the solution will become apparent to your conscious mental processes.  

Nature did not put certain mental process patterns in the subconscious to be part of the clock watching you, they put other mental process patterns in there to be the conceptual thinker you.

Because your conceptual subconscious (which is part of you and works for you all the time, which we do not notice because that is what the term 'subconscious' defines - things we are not consciously aware of but think about anyway on one level or another away from top of the mind awareness) does not recognize the passage of time.

It cannot differentiate whether it is processing something that takes five seconds to arrive at the answer of, or five years to arrive to the answer of.  

I have a future blog planned on this I hope you will find as illuminating as I did experiencing it.  Keep that word experience handy in your future creative endeavors involving self discovery.  

I am not talking about the noun experience, but the verb form, experiential.  

Or 30 years for that matter back to the point, if we are to pragmatically look at timescale in the way conceptual development thinking or creativity operates.

All the creative faculty knows is that you have asked it to arrive at a solution for you. It will do so no matter how long this process takes if it can, because it calls upon the subconscious, the part of you that is good with this kind of abstract and symbolic concept thinking to help it.

That part of you is at least nine times smarter than the conscious part of you reading this text right now. But it doesn't know how to tell time really very well at all. It's wasted neurons as far as efficient brain development is genetically concerned from the standpoint of human evolution.

The creative faculty within the subconscious does this all because you ask it of yourself to figure it out. This the way it loves you, by serving you. We sometimes hurt the one we love, eh, Sihamm?  In this case we hurt it by labeling mythical maladies upon it like writer's block.  

We tend to believe just because we forget something consciously, we must not have thought it was important. But the subconscious mind does not have the mental process pattern to draw that rational distinction. It only knows you are trying to figure something out, and it is there to help you because it is part of you and wants to support you in every way it can. It kinda can’t not help you, actually. Because thinking is thinking is thinking, whether rational, creative or subconscious.

But we push it to the side just like society pushes to the side creative people. This of course in both cases is poor judgment demonstrating a lack of understanding of how the more sophisticated parts of our brains, and society work.

Just because you missed the answer to the problem you posed to yourself when it was there as you woke up, and you were too lazy to write that fleeting thought down - because people often are lazy intellects unaware of how the subconscious communicates its information to the consciousness – something you asked it to do for you, doesn't mean it didn't do it’s job.

It means you failed your job of capturing the information consciously when it was presented to you.

It's sort of like taking a picture of yourself with a camera posing as a photographer looking at yourself like you are the best subject to take a picture of. Then something near you occurs that is a real picture worth taking and you say to yourself, "Oh,I could have got that shot were I paying more attention to things around me, instead of admiring my fancy self in the vain mirror of consciousness."

Now that great shot is lost forever, and it could have made your career, established you as a professional, or a good shot maker or at least made you some money stringing on the wires.

All because you were so involved with self admiration. Getting out of your own way is the key first step in becoming an authentic creator. There are a whole bunch more. But it gets a lot easier once you learn you can release yourself from the chains you willingly put yourself into intellectual slavery with.

Read Plato's "The Cave" and you might find a few clues as to how to do so.

What you did in failing to capture the information consciously does mean is that you took the job it did for you, and told yourself on a certain level you don’t care about the job it did for you - that the job it did for you has no value.

This is known in psychological terms as self-diminishment. It's a small part of our dysfunctional society - something you must overcome if you are to become a creator of significance.

You harshly diminish and sweep under the conscious rug a particular aspect of your deeper self for the job it did for you because the way you treated it when it served you because you asked it by coming up with the answer to the job and it was not the easy, convenient way for you gather that information.

This is harshly judging yourself, and technically self abuse. Your subconscious doesn't forget this abuse. And remember, it's actually in charge of your life, so this is not an intelligent or self compassionate thing to do at all. Yet people do it all the time and we are all doing it right now for the most part.

It takes years of discipline to not do it, in my opinion, and we are not perfect, but we must be genuine when it comes to dealing with ourselves on every level.

So now you know why we have so many problems in our personal lives and in our societies because we simply do not work with the rest of who we are in a respectful, committed and meaningful way. It's hard work, and hard work is almost the sole ingredient in success on just about any level, personal, professional or creative or global you can name, define or conceptualize.

This is one of the great losses of the human potential, and why I stand by and commit to the values of calling myself The Defender Of Creativity.

We perpetrate this abuse upon ourselves because we inherited the script from an antiquated and underdeveloped element of society. The part of society that tells you, "You'd better have something to fall back on in case you don't make it as an artist." This perception alone can create enough life long fear to prevent you from taking the degree of risk for your creative life to succeed for your entire life. It can virtually assuring you will fail as an artist.

Taking yesterday's advice is not always the best investment in tomorrow.

Things like slavery and monopoly have taught us this important perspective when evaluating yesterday's wisdom.

Comparatively, it is also well documented that 95% of all businesses fail five years after they start, primarily due to the lack of planning, marketing or funding. But it took the finest entrepreneurial minds of Silicon Valley years to discover the real reason for business failure was the business planning process itself.

Yet for decades bordering on a century, we were faithfully and diligently prescribed to that all new business owners must have a business plan proving it will make money before any particular agency like a bank or the Small Business Administration would give them money to start the business with.

And yet they failed anyway. It was big data that brought us (and one Swedish scientist who wrote a book called Business Model Generation) to the conclusion that it was not business planning that was the guarantee of successful businesses, it was the business modeling process that was not sufficiently developed that lead to failure.

So now I am analogously going to loop back to the creative process and tell you writer's block does not exist because what we thought was writer's block was actually just an inability or lack of effort to define the creative process specifically enough within which the writing, painting and other creative disciplines are part of.

The result of that lack of specific definition of the creative process which in our case precisely deals with a temporal aspect of how part of our brain works with solving problems is the misnomer, or myth or writer's block.

So now you know the truth of it, Sihamm.

Writer's block exists as an excuse for not doing enough work defining the creative process within which writing works to clear up it's existence as a mistaken perception in writing pro forma. Because there was a label to hang all blame for not writing on that avoided personal, professional and individual wellness accountability, we stuck with what we thought was sufficient definition in the category topic of writer's block.

And we might as well account for another part of the creative process known as gestation, which is often mislabeled as writer's block. Something that is a natural part of the creative process (the gestation phase) is being mistaken for writer's block because nothing is happening at the time and our convenience mentality loses it.

Self-diminishment or populist frontier psychology takes over and you wave the flag at the top of Unscaled Heights hill screaming, "Writer's Block!  Writer' Block!1" when nothing could be further from the truth.  Joseph Heller, the author of the classic "Catch 22" used to say, "I think for ten years, then I type for one."  

Getting the picture of the gestation phase now?  It can take as long as the complication of the problem you pose it.  This does not include the interpretation time your rationale takes to convert the deliverable into words on the page.  

You gotta watch out for convenience rage in writing and in life.  You ever seen convenience rage?  It’s up there with road rage but much more frequent, given the range of retail experiences available to consumers.  Sort of like retail frustration on steroids.  Think Christmas returns as the origin story for this phenom, then hit it with the anabolics, and you get the picture.  

The myth of writer' block, and other blocks for that matter, was born in an immensely self absorbed time (which would account for the predisposition to not take accountability for much on a personal basis. These were times of: colonialism, rampant financial exploitation at great human and environmental cost, indigenous people's 'anglofication' and institutional and doctrinal abuses virtually ruining entire races, countries and cultural heritages) within which high falutin' self view was the norm, not the aberrant thinking we know it to be today.

Today we know it as vanity, ego, self absorbed behavior, the ignorance of arrogance and the like. Back then, when the term was coined, it was easier to blame something other than ourselves. We viewed ourselves as far too perfect in our own special ways. We thought in most aristocratic, provincial and cloistered terms. It has not entirely gone away today, sadly.

But fortunately, our need to know the truth and our highest cognitive function genetically, discovery, will not allow a healthy consciousness to wallow in self admiration for long. Such behavior is simply not evolutionary wisdom.

However, there are a significant number of people out there who believe that banks, breeding and big box retail are the apex of civilization. These fools, of course, constitute the majority of the population. However, anybody who has a mind as opposed to a brain understands that commercialization is not the be-all, end-all of society. This sacrifice of human dignity, worth and values for the short sighted sake of shareholder interest is but a temporary stall in our evolutionary curve as a species and a civilization star bound.

Because when you meaningfully commit to all aspects of self, you learn who you really, totally and completely are becoming as opposed to who you assume or are told who you are. I don't think our lifespan is long enough to go all the way, but I hope science will affect longevity to allows us the ability to continue the process of becoming. It is going in that process direction that is important anyway.

That is how not to live a lie, and more importantly, surprisingly, given that last statement, opens the doors to your greatest personal, professional, creative and living discoveries. And that kind of thing is the kind of thing that life is all about, not what you possess or control; these are the overwhelming self-enslaving concerns of the intellectually, philosophically and spiritually challenged.

So if you ask yourself to imagine going fishing, you can probably come up with the majority of details to complete the picture for yourself pretty quickly. But if you ask yourself to imagine yourself going fishing on another planet sometime in the future it may take five months for you (or Ray Bradbury) to figure out all the things necessary for to complete the picture for yourself so you are confident you know it.

And in the professional literary arts business and life, if you can’t write it down, you don’t truly and authentically really know it.

Just because five months have passed instead of five minutes, does not mean you are blocked and suffering from writer's block, it means you are still working on it and its going to take more time to figure out how you particularly, in your individual, unique artistic way are going to picture yourself fishing in the future on anther planet.

We, in our simpletonian, crutches-as-the-best-way-to-walk mentality believe if it is not coming to us right away or soon, we are blocked. When indeed, the process may still be working far beyond your conscious grasp, and your subconscious has not figured it out yet. You can trust it to, because it is a part of you and not in the business of screwing you unless you can’t trust yourself to have the patience to wait for the answer. And that is a head issue called self trust, not the myth of writer's block.

But because we cannot in an immediate conscious sense identify whether the solution has been arrived at, we label it with a patent lowbrow frontier psychology term called writer’s block that people who haven't done the work subscribe to as true.

In fact, the answer may have come to you long ago, but you were not self aware enough at the time to recognize it and write it down. This happens when you are intellectually lazy or convenience addicted. Just like the corporations like you to be. Or, you didn't have enough trust in your creative faculty because you don’t understand it well enough, and never really tried to on a significant level, to believe it would come up with the solution to your posed problem because you asked it to. This is an internal processing error regarding information delivery a hundred miles away from the writing process.

Are you beginning to see Sihamm how we dis-serve and abuse ourselves in a most important way simply because we lack the patience, trust, commitment and discipline to wait our less rational thinking processes out?

This is a common thing I see everywhere. I am so glad to be different, because I have no writer’s block. I have written tens of millions of words, and if anything, I have an information architecture management issue dealing with all the subjects and subtopics I have written about!

I’ll take that any day over living a lie of the myth or writer’s block because it is an easier solution to come up with than learning how to deal with other thinking processes you cannot completely control, make immediate demands of, put on a time clock on and all the other chattel consciousness limitations enslaving the vast majority of the world for centuries.

I choose to think more broadly about things, and encourage you to also, Sihaam.

So by failing to recognize the role of time *alone* in the creative development process is one key reason why the myth and patriarchal label of writer’s block has manifested itself.

It has been so happily embraced as a crutch by people of limited thinking because it is less mental work to blame the block than the person’s lack of understanding of their given creative process. Or it's a lack of personal commitment to patience and trust in the time it takes to solve some creative issues more abstract in design than others. Like how to fish on earth or how to fish on another planet, for example. Or how to sit in a chair or sit in a chair that was used as an electric chair as a method of teleporting to hell in the film "Constantine" starring Keanu Reeves.

It is because of this lack of perspective, understanding and self awareness this myth has come to popular excuse for another thing entirely. We resist the truth about the process because we are invested in defending the lie of the myth because we have been living it so long, it must be true, and we can remain intellectually lazy if we just leave it culturally instituted.

This is the definition of the Flat Earth Society consciousness. The earth is round, Sihamm.

But that is like staying in a loveless marriage that grows no fruits of the heart because the fear of being alone or going out there and making it happen romantically all over again scares us to death, so we paralyze in place. We would rather live the lie and defend it than make the effort to change for the sake of a better truth in life. A truth that could set you free from the chains you yourself put on.

And that is just laziness I am not prepared to tolerate. It is why I defend creativity from short sighted, lazy intellects who would rather peddle yesteryear’s perceptions of truth instead of burying them in the past where they belong. These yestergnomes retard the advancement of culture by providing easy explanations deflecting inherent responsibilities for harder work, clearer perceptions and defending dysfunctional institutionalized blame based cultural axioms interested in nothing but authoritarian self-perpetuation.

There is nothing wrong with the writing process. There is something wrong with the way you perceive the creative process and how it works. A portion of that perception is in complete disregard of the passage of time and its necessity in subconscious operations in thinking about creative problem solutions.

Fix your perception of how the creative process works (and it’s effect on the writing process, or painting process- whatever artistic discipline you may specify) and you will immediately see, if you are objective at all, that writer’s block is simply a label we slapped on something to pin the blame on when the harder work of objectively, and intellectual understanding of creativity as a human consciousness process was really what was at issue.

Remember my lesson of “The Razor’s Edge” by W. Somerset Maugham.

'At a certain point in the growth of awareness, the great books of yesterday are only good for fuel to keep you from freezing to death in the long, cold dark night of the soul. For when the light of day at sunrise comes to your mind and body and immediate presence, you must act responsibly, responsively and fluidly to capture, describe and record for those who will follow you the look, sound, smell and feel of yesterday’s tomorrow while it is present, immediate and clear.’

Indeed, this is the sole and exclusive legitimate reason for book burning of any kind. For as the First Law of Empirical Science states, “At every step of the way, you must be prepared to admit that everything you knew before was wrong.”

Perhaps this is the litmus test of the way we authentically progress culturally?

Now get back to work and work smart and hard. For tomorrow is promised to no one and time is rarely an ally.

Sincerely yours,

The Lone Comic TM

Defender Of Creativity and Entertainment SM

“As long as you disown your shadow, you can never be whole or satisfied.” - Carl Jung

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