Douglas Davey is author of the YA novels M in the Abstract and Switch, published by Red Deer Press. Douglas lives in Guelph with his family where he spends his time in various nerdy endeavours such as reading, playing games, and showing B-movies in his garage. You can find him on Instagram @solongsuccour and LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/douglaspauldavey.
Detouring Around the “Block”
Writer’s block seems to come to every writer eventually. My particular strain came at the end of (and partly in response to) an incredibly prolific period in my writing life. My first two novels had done well, the second in particular, and overall I was pleased with the reviews and the feedback. At the same time, they were intensely personal, and the process of writing and publishing them took a heavy emotional toll. Still, before the second book had even hit the shelves I was hard at work on a third, (equally-personal) manuscript, as well as amassing enough short stories for a collection.
Then, life hit me. Personal and professional challenges accumulated until they felt insurmountable, and I found myself unable to write more fiction.
Looking back at this tough time in my life, I realize that my experience with writer’s block followed the classic stages of grief. First, denial. Writer’s block was a disaster that only befell other people, not me, like being in a plane crash or hit by lightning. Then came anger, as I mercilessly berated myself for my own ineptitude. Bargaining came next: if I could just complete this task or get that room renovated THEN I’d be better set up to write, (ignoring the fact that I wrote my first manuscript in surroundings that verged on the Dickensian). Depression, the fourth stage, was an unwanted and lifelong companion, and was never far away to begin with. Finally, acceptance. Which isn’t to say that I was writing fiction again, just that I was able to face the situation realistically.
I was still compelled to write, but with fiction off the table, what was I to do? I wanted something easy breezy, and less emotionally burdensome than my fiction writing had been. So what were my interests? I was a librarian, a film buff, a lover of word puzzles, and the B in LGBTQ+. With this in mind, I wrote and published a library journal article on the now-very-timely subject of drag queen storytimes. After that, I started up a column in another journal, this time assembling back-catalogue movie recommendations based on esoteric themes of my own invention. I paired that column up with another featuring my own cryptic crosswords and other word puzzles. I hadn’t overcome my writer’s, but I was definitely detouring around it.
Slowly, ideas began to seep back into the part of my brain reserved for fiction writing.
Now, with quite a lot of time having passed, I’ve put all of my unfinished projects aside and am proceeding with new work, something very different for me, and a story that feels more like a fun challenge and less like a self-directed exorcism.
I guess the lesson is: when it hits you—and chances are it will—be kind to yourself. One way or another, and given enough time, you can drive past the block.