Writer’s Block or is it?

How do you measure productivity as a writer? Number of words typed per day? Number of acceptances per year? Whether you met the 60000 word target for NaNoWriMo?

Do you use apps to block access to social media or apps that punish you when you stop typing or reward you at an achieved word count?

What do you do when you’re looking at a blank screen, your fingers poised above the home keys and your brain fails to instruct your fingers to type? Panic?

Actually, you shouldn’t panic, even if you’re up against a deadline. Whether that’s a deadline you had plenty of notice of but left until the eleventh hour or one you rashly agreed to despite knowing you didn’t have enough time to meet it.

But it doesn’t seem right, does it? Writers write so a writer not writing is no longer a writer, right?

Wrong. A hack produces x number of words per day. A beginner congratulates themselves on achieving their NaNoWriMo targets. An amateur agrees to write 2000 words on a subject they think they can quickly research via a search engine and submit the final article with three hours. A writer does not (although word counts may be a useful pace-maker or overall target, eg “I’m going to write for two hours a day” could be re-phased as “I’m going to write an average of two thousand words a day”.) Hitting the NaNoWriMo target is a beginning, not an end.

A writer knows that the only valid measurement of productivity is connected to acceptances: a publisher accepting your novel, a magazine accepting your poem, a journal accepting your finished article, your readership writing rave reviews about your latest piece.

There are two elements to writing. The act of getting words on paper is only one of them. If you only use this measure, a novel can be written in less than two months. A poetry collection would take even less time. But I would not want to read either that novel or poetry collection.

The second element is creativity. That takes place when you’re planning, getting to know your characters, dreaming, wondering why the same images, phrases or themes haunt you. Without that creativity, you’re not a writer.

Do your productivity targets allow you time to be a writer? If you think you have writer’s block, that just might be your writer’s instinct telling you it’s time to create.

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2 Responses to “Writer’s Block or is it?”

  1. Sam Smith Says:

    Always quality that counts, Emma. I keep in mind Larkin whose lasting reputation rests on 250 published poems, or Traven’s one novel, Treasure of the Sierra Madre. It’s having something to write about that matters, that one feels compelled to write about….

  2. Stop Writing « Emma Lee’s Blog Says:

    […] for success, it is worth taking a break. In a previous blog post, I wrote about there being two elements to writing: the getting words onto paper and creativity, the planning, getting to know characters and […]


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