Student writers of all ages fret frequently about writer's block, but I swear to you that isn't the real problem.

The real problem is what I like to call writer's blech.

Writer's blech is the feeling, which will be instantly recognizable to 99% of all writers, at all levels, that one is not a real writer. It is the painful despairing sensation that your writing is terrible, that you are at base a fraud and a faker, that all the other writers in the world are better than you, that your story is stupid and not worth telling, and that probably your parents were right and you should have gone to law school after all.

Worse than the sensation of writer's blech is its means of manifesting itself: In a need to nap, instead of write, or watch TV instead of write, or check one's email for the 150th time in a given one-hour period, instead of write. Because if a nagging bitter voice is busily informing you that you are a fraud and a faker and your story is stupid and  not worth telling, than what point is there in sweating through the hard labor of imaginative conjuring, careful sentence construction, and multiple revision that constitutes writing?

I mentioned above that 99% of writers experience writer's blech, or some form of it. I have heard it confessed by professional writers of all genres in all levels, and by student writers of all ages. Personally I get it most often when in the middle of a long piece of fiction, which I happen to be in the middle of right now, which is probably why I'm thinking of it these days. I've been working on a novel for almost a year, and I've spent maybe half of that time convinced that the whole thing is garbage. That I'm a fraud and a faker, and etc…

The only prescription, annoyingly enough, is discipline.

You have to write through it — what else is there, after all, to do? If you stop writing, you will only have confirmed the hypothesis of the nagging and bitter voice, that you were a fraud and a faker all along, and you'll live with a sour feeling in your stomach for a long time to come, a feeling of having betrayed your talent, of having turned your back on what you knew, deep down, was a font of creative possibility.

But if you summon the discipline to keep going, to construct your best writing environment and corral your focus and keep writing and rewriting and refining, you will find that what ultimately cures  writer's blech — well, I shouldn't say cures — what ultimately tames, or keeps at bay, that dreadful sense of not-being-up-to-it, is writing something good: a strong sentence, or a taut paragraph, or, if the gods are smiling, a good book.

A collection of words that you can look at and say to yourself, maybe I'm a fraud and a faker, but I know that that right there is properly done. That right there is a strong sentence, a taut paragraph, a good goddamn book.

Will the writer's blech have gone away? No, ma'am. Of course not. It will return the next time you sit down in front of a blank page, or reach the end of a burst of passionate productivity, or when you read a glowing review of another author's work and think: what am I, next to that?

But what I'm saying is, that author is at home going: Blech.

So, you know, get back to work.

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Published on December 12, 2011 14:43 • 945 views
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message 1: by Josh (new)

Josh Geoghagan I picked up your book the other day - after reading this, it just jumped up to the next book I'm reading. Great post.

message 2: by Stephen (new)

Stephen The Last Policeman is excellent. You sir, are a great storyteller.

message 3: by Natasha (new)

Natasha Your writing is great. Both me and my 16 year old daughter can read and enjoy, which is saying something. When is the third installment of the Last Policeman coming?

message 4: by Ben (new)

Ben Winters Thanks so much, Natasha -- glad you and your kid are digging the series.

Book 3 is called World of Trouble and it comes out July of this year.

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