In the opening of ‘Haroun and The Sea of Stories’, by Salman Rushdie, Haroun shouts at his father,“What’s the use of stories that aren’t even true?” When he does this, he not only questions his father’s storytelling abilities, but also his perspective on reality. As a result of this, Rashid questions himself, and becomes blocked. As for many writers, Rashid’s gift of words is more than just a livelihood, it’s a reason for existing.
As writers one of our steepest challenges is how to justify, to others, or to ourselves, that sitting alone in a room with only our imagination and a computer for company is a valid occupation.
If we’re writing a novel, it may take several years before we see any financial return, the physical evidence to justify the claim that we are a ‘writer’. In that time, there may only be one or two people- an editor and a fellow writer, for example- who are in our corner, supporting our efforts. And sometimes there is no one at all in our corner. It’s one thing to have no support from the outside world, but when we become blocked and stop writing it’s also usually because we’ve abandoned ourselves.
As far as I’m concerned, if you consistently practice the craft of writing, you deserve to be called a writer. Anyone can have a good idea for a book. However, to overcome the doubts that plague us sufficiently to do the hard graft that results in 350 pages, that’s what divides the ideas merchant from the true writer.
And how to overcome those doubts? Firstly, think less and keep writing. Drop down into the physical experience of how it is to feel the keyboard under your fingertips and smell the cup of coffee beside you.
Secondly, remember perseverance is everything. Richard Bach was told, “nobody will want to read a book about a seagull”. ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ went on to sell 44 million copies. And there are many similar stories. You may find this a useful website:
The Weekly Prompt
If you feel uninspired or blocked in your writing, try this. Write a piece of prose or poetry on the subject of ‘my writing environment’. Make use of all the senses. Describe smells, sounds, colours, textures, and tastes. Afterwards, come back to your current writing project. How is the process different?