It’s when you get something wrong so many times that you almost cease to believe you’re capable of doing it right. You’re discouraged. You’ve given up before you’ve even tried again.
The BLOCK is found commonly in gymnastics, particularly when a gymnast is learning a new skill. When I was learning my full, I got BLOCKED. Bad.
The first time I tried the skill, my sister and coach had told me to do a half (that is, layout flip with half twist). I twisted hard end ended up doing a full. I was ecstatic. I tried again and face-planted. Thus began my soon-to-be legendary BLOCK.
I decided the first attempt was a fluke. But the more I tried, the more I sucked. The more I sucked, the more I knew I would suck forever. I just couldn’t do it. Once or twice, I may have cried myself to sleep. Two months later, I moved on to the next skill, officially giving up.
What does this have to do with writing?
The BLOCK happens when you’re not getting anywhere. Maybe you’re writing words, but you know you’ll have to trash them later because they don’t have that zing that the rest of the novel does.
You don’t know what happens next, or you don’t know how to tell it. You can’t move forward, you can’t go backwards, and you have no wiggle room. You’re stuck with no emergency exit in sight.
It sucks. A lot. The BLOCK can be a long-lasting little sucker, and it sticks with you for a long time, no matter how much you threaten to blow it away with an AK-47. (Too violent? C’mon, you know you were thinking it.)
The most lethal weapon you have against the BLOCK is persistence. Do not let that evil thing make you give up. You are stronger and more clever. You will get it right.
You must keep fighting. Write a thousand pages of crap if you have to, but do your utmost to keep the words coming. These are your face-plants. They hurt, but they’re necessary.
Talking to your “coach” – your writing mentor or crit partner. They can give corrections to your attempts, show you how to improve, and help you stay motivated.
It’s good to work on two skills (stories/chapters/etc) at the same time. It keeps you alert and helps you avoid falling into a routine of mistakes or writing dread.
Stay upbeat. The BLOCK feeds off misery and frustration. And once you feed something, it never goes away (coughYOUNGER SIBLINGScough).
Condition yourself. In gymnastics, athletes do drills to prepare for learning a big skill, or to improve on skills that they’ve already learned. So free write, or try poems or short stories. You’ve got to keep those brain muscles moving.
Sometimes the BLOCK wins. I gave up on that full, after all. But the BLOCK can only win for so long. Cause guess what? I went back to the gym. Not only did I do a full, but I’m learning my double full, too.