Work one-on-one with Ben Hopkin

Private Sessions

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Creative Blocks

Well, howdy doody! Looks like what was once a weekly (and then monthly and then once-every-other-monthly... is that even a thing?) blog has somehow turned into a once-yearly (if even that) occurrence. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

I will not now spend precious time making promises of rededication. I will either write more or I will not. Remains to be seen. But one thing is true. I would like to engage more. I think it's worthwhile.

I've been doing some crazy stuff lately. One of those things is that, since the time I stopped writing regular blog entries, I've become a writer.

Now, I know what you're thinking, but it's not true. You're thinking that I now resemble that most hated and beloved of writers, Mr. George R. R. Martin.

That is a half-truth.

I have put on a few pounds, it is certain. It is also true that I have a penchant for faux sailor attire. However, to put me in the same category as this brilliant and misanthropic soul would be a grave error on your part.

The other question that may come up is what exactly I mean when I say that I've "become an writer"? That I've written a few short stories? That I've submitted an essay or two to my local newspaper? What?

Well, the first thing I will say in response to these totally imaginary questions is that it doesn't matter. One of the things I say all the time, and I believe it to be true, is that if you do it, you are it. In other words, if you act, you're an actor. If you write, you're a writer.

No need to wait for outward acclaim and success to identify as whatever it is that you are practicing. Success is perhaps a marker to determine whether or not you should quit your day job. It is not a marker to determine whether or not you get to call yourself by whatever artistic title you so desire. All that's required is that you be actively working on it.

This was a tough concept for me to embrace. Over the course of the last two or three years I have written 8 full-length novels, and they're doing quite well. But I was still struggling with the idea that I just wasn't a writer. I would argue with my writing partner about it all the time.

Finally, she took me to task, essentially asking me at what point would I fess up and admit that I was not just a writer, but a pretty successful one? So, that was my first hurdle, and it can be a doozy to get over. I'm not sure I'm quite there yet, to be honest.

And here's where we come to the heart of this post. We all go through times of difficulty in our creative process. It just happens sometimes. Times when we feel crappy about our work, or hesitant about our process, or just downright blocked.

That's okay. It's part of the whole creative thing we're doing. The challenge is to keep going.

Writer's block isn't a real thing. It FEELS like a real thing, trust me. But it's not. It's just fear made manifest in a blank page.

The truth is, it's okay to suck sometimes. Write bad stuff. Act badly. Paint and sculpt and sketch pure awfulness from time to time.

I think we're so afraid that we aren't talented, that the idea of embracing suckage is just wrong, somehow. Like we'll be exposed as the frauds we are.

But everyone is. Or at least, everyone is just doing the best that he or she can in the moment. Talent or skill isn't a good indicator of ultimate success in creative endeavors. Just look around you. Lots of "bad" actors have careers. So do a lot of "bad" writers.

Doesn't matter. If they keep doing it, they get better. But they have to keep doing it. All the time.

We have to keep acting, keep writing, keep directing, keep doing whatever it is we're doing through the bad stuff. That's when it's most important. It's the only way we can get better.

So keep creating. Risk suckage. Embrace the occasional spewing forth of crappy work.

And then keep moving forward.