“Writer’s Weight”

You know what you want to write today. The idea is there, you may even have an outline. You’re not under a particularly tight deadline with this one. In some ways you’ve been looking forward to this. You are not feeling at all lazy. In fact you’re rearing to go.

Then you sit down to begin…and you just can’t do it. You can’t bring yourself to begin writing. Despite your desire to get some words down, at this moment beginning the writing process becomes daunting. Maybe you sit there until it passes, if it does, or you get up and do everything else on your list for today, hoping that by the time you come back to writing, this feeling, this veil, this inertia against writing will be gone.

Often, however, it isn’t. If you want to finish your word quota for the day, you have to rev yourself up for an extended period of time, or through sheer force of will break through this shackle and just write.

It isn’t writers block, because you have the idea and the words in your head. It isn’t procrastination because you keep trying to do it. Yet you can’t bring yourself to write. I sometime call this writer’s weight.

No, this is not in reference to a diet or being too sedentary at your desk all day. (Though you do need to remember to get up and exercise.) I mean the weight of what you are doing as a writer. At times like those I have described, the artistic responsibility and/or power of putting your thoughts and feelings into words and sentences, as much as you long to do so, suddenly weighs you down, like a backpack filled with 20 pounds of bricks.

Could you, if you had to, walk about a mile with 20 pounds strapped to your back? Yes, in most cases, most of us could probably do it. Is there anybody alive would be chomping at the bit to begin such a chore? Would anyone fail to resist starting such a trek, at least for a while? Maybe a few people, but not most, and not me.

Where does it come from, this “writer’s weight?” I’ve thought about that a great deal in the last few weeks, as I seem to have suffered from the condition more during that time than normal. The nature of this “weight” is in all likelihood different for each person that might experience it. Could be fear, or confusion. Perfectionism probably has a lot to do with it for some. Guilt, even, for being a writer. It happens, believe me, as little sense as it may make. For myself, this “weight” has probably had parts of each of these concepts.

More than these, however, I think is the unknown. The XYZ factor of it all. The undefinable that seems to show up now and then, sometimes for short period and sometimes for the long haul, that makes the already difficult task of writing even more of a challenge. It’s like the professional high diver who every once in a while gets up on the platform, and simply can’t bring themselves to make the dive they have made a thousand times. It happens.

I try not to get too down on myself about writer’s weight. I’ll deal with it by either doing some other things for a while, or, if worse comes to worse, just sitting back from the computer for a bit, and doing some controlled breathing. I’ll try to envision myself typing at the keyboard at some point in the near future. Like a sprinter preparing for the dash, I’ll try to get lose, and summon my reserves of strength. An even better analogy is probably someone trying to push a stuck car out of the mud. They back up, get into position to brace for impact, take a deep breath and then force themselves toward the cars and shove like hell.

More often than not, that does the trick, and once I’ve written a paragraph, the inertia shifts, and I can get some work done.

I try not to acknowledge writers block as a concept. When I’m ready I can always write about something, even writer’s block itself. Writer’s weight, though is quite real to me and in some ways worse. When you can’t go, you can’t go.

Yet you do go, at some point. It’s easy to get over it when a deadline is approaching, and quite a bit harder when there is no deadline, but you get past it somehow. You have to. You’re a writer.

Have you ever experience this “writer’s weight” I’m talking about? Tell me about it.

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3 Comments

  1. I like the idea of writer’s weight vs. writer’s block. Lately, I’ve been feeling less “writer’s weight” and more “writer’s apathy” or a sense of “what’s the point?” It get depressing. What you’re talking about here needs that push…maybe it has something to do with the idea that many of us can’t justify doing writing before doing a lot of other important things we need to do, so we experience the inertia you talk about.

  2. There is certainly sometimes an element of “what’s the point?” that can descend, which may be even more “dangerous” than writer’s block. And I know the justification thing is part of my deal sometimes, no doubt. I just have to convince myself that if this is who I am and what I am going to do, I need to be doing it!

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