Elizabeth Gilbert has been very open about her process of writing while not knowing what would become clunkers and what would work. She said in multiple occasions, that she had a long period of time receiving nothing but rejection letters. The only thing she could do was to go back to her work even if they were not picked by the publishers. This is the same as what Seth said about shooting: you can’t hit without having misses. And to be realistic, you will have more misses than hits. And after you hit the target, what you do? Well, you can put down your hands and say “I did it” and call it a day; or most likely you will keep shooting, keep missing, until you hit again.
I gave up believing in the myth of a Writer’s block after listening to the episode of Akimbo podcast (episode 4) where Seth debunked it. To me, the reason that I used to think I had a block in my creative process is kinda universal: perfectionism. Perfectionism comes from an ego that’s bigger than it’s healthy to be: “I have to come up with something good to say, something brilliant to draw, to put in front of others. Because I am good. And everybody should know that from whatever I produce now.” Because we were lured to believe that all artists should be egocentric who create the work of their lives that must inspire generations? Maybe. But again, they are the hits and not the misses.
It’s interesting to me that there’s no term equivalent to “writer’s block” in Chinese. “Block” indicates that one can “unblock” it. In Chinese, the words to describe a writer who cannot write is like: the thoughts/idea of well has been drained (like a dry well in the desert, it’s dead); and an artist who cannot create anymore: “talent being used up, drained up. One becomes empty and career in art comes to the end.” If you can’t create anymore, it’s final. Gosh are the Chinese super harsh with their creative minds…
One of the most intellectuals in modern Chinese history, Liang Shiqiu, wrote about “writer’s block”: lack of imagination, slow association, unclear analysis, and lack of vocabulary&expression are the four main reasons of getting a block in your creative practice. The way to unblock? Read well and read more. To ensure one’s never blocked again, and doing better work with time: Read, analyse, write, edit. Repeat.
Are you a dried up well? Or can you keep reading, analysing, writing, and editing, to unblock your creative stream?