Sunday, July 13, 2014

BOOK BRIEF: "On Writer's Block" by Victoria Nelson

On Writer's Block: A New Approach to Creativity by Victoria Nelson focuses not on writing quality but on writing attitude. I wrote such a book myself (How to Write Fast Under Pressure by AMACOM Books), but I direct mine to business and technical writers, while Nelson look more at the novelist, essayist, playwright, and poet. Nevertheless, writers of any stripe would appreciate the universal wisdom and commonsense viewpoint appearing throughout On Writer's Block.

Nelson, an accomplished author of books on diverse subjects and professor of creative writing in several MFA programs, starts with two simple premises: 1) writer's block, the temporary or chronic inability to write one's thoughts, is natural and inevitable for all writers regardless of their achievements; and 2) writers, especially novices, should learn to live with writer's block and use it to their advantage.

As strange as those ideas may seem to aspiring writers, they are true, and On Writer's Block alludes to master authors to prove its point. Nelson admonishes writers for trying to fight writer's block as if it's an enemy, encouraging a more accepting posture that focuses on understanding its connection to our personality and proclivities. She examines its sources, not the least of which are unrealistic expectations and maddening perfectionism, as well as a blind acceptance of the popular culture's romantic perception of what constitutes a writer's life.

Readers looking for techniques to write more proficiently and prolifically should look elsewhere; however, if they want insights into how to deal with their psyche as writer's block approaches and lingers, they've come to the right book in On Writer's Block