Erica Jong Identifies the Psychological Cause of Writers Block

by Kalinda Rose Stevenson

Fear of Being Judged

All writing problems are psychological problems.
Blocks usually stem from the fear of being judged.
If you imagine the world listening, you'll never write a line.
That's why privacy is so important.
You should write first drafts
as if they will never be shown to anyone.

Erica Jong
Erica Jong identifies the psychological problem that causes writer's block.
Eric Jong Writers's Block

Writing Your First Draft

Erica Jong makes a valuable observation about how to recognize and overcome a significant psychological cause of writer's block. 

You should write first drafts as if they will never be shown to anyone.

Think about her own writing career described in the biography. Her first novel, Fear of Flying, was a huge success. That was the beginning of her successful writer's life. 

And…this highly experienced, highly successful writer, tells other writer’s to keep your first draft private. If a writer with her credentials as a best-selling author of many books makes a claim about writing, it’s worth pondering her wisdom. 

She knows that no writer is going to produce an extraordinary book in the first draft. Most writers don't really know what they are writing about when they begin. They have ideas but they don’t have completely planned-out ideas.

Writing Creation

Creation is about bringing into existence something that doesn’t now exist, and has never existed before. Writing is a creative experience. If you are a writer, you are a creator of something made up of words you choose to use, words that you choose to arrange in a way no one else has ever written them before you. The odds are very high that no one has chosen—or ever will choose—the same words arranged the same way about the same idea as you will choose when you write.

It could be a big idea with a radical vision of change, or it could be a small insight, a slightly different perspective, a different point of view shaped by the fact that each of us sees the world differently.

Unless you plagiarize by copying verbatim what someone else has written—which is not creation—whatever you write is going to be your unique creation.

Fear of Judgment

Writer’s block isn't usually about lack of ideas. At the root, the cause of writer’s block is the nagging sense that what you are writing is not going to be good enough. Maybe you think that it will be judged harshly or ridiculed as insignificant. Nothing stops creativity more than the endless criticism that what you are writing isn't good enough, or appropriate enough, or unique enough. It's even worse when you are the one who is criticizing your own writing.

Write Your First Draft

To be writer, you must write. You must write your first draft with the firm resolution that you will write it and not show it to anyone else. As for yourself, give yourself permission to write a complete first draft, even if you know that it's not very good. A complete first draft gives you the big picture of your whole book. When you have the big picture, you can revise and edit and restructure your manuscript into a complete book. Even if you think that your first draft is terrible, a whole draft gives you a sense of the whole you want to write. Let that be the beginning—not the end—of the creation of your book.

About Erica Jong

Amazon Biography and Fear of Flying Anniversary special

Erica Jong--novelist, poet, and essayist--has consistently used her craft to help provide women with a powerful and rational voice in forging a feminist consciousness. She has published 23 books, including nine novels, seven volumes of poetry, six books of non-fiction and numerous articles in magazines and newspapers such as The New York Times, The Sunday Times of London, Elle, Vogue, The New York Times Book Review and The Wall Street Journal. 
The 30th Anniversary special!

Originally published in 1973, the ground-breaking, uninhibited story of Isadora Wing and her desire to fly free caused a national sensation—and sold more than twelve million copies. Now, after thirty years, the iconic novel still stands as a timeless tale of self-discovery, liberation, and womanhood.

[Original Post October 18, 2014]

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