Perform the injunction!

Writers block. Most suffer from it. Many deny its very existence. Some of us manage to do both at the same time. Writing is a complex and demanding mental, emotional and physical task. It’s hardly surprising that even the best of us sometimes fail to muster the necessary forces to support our cause.

Having argued that writing is complex, I’m now going to reverse the argument and say that from another perspective writing is a very simple act. So simple in fact, that you can easily forget to do it, even while doing it.

To do anything, you must first perform the injunction. For any act, there are basic steps that you must take to achieve it. To swim, you first have to somehow get in to the water. To walk, you have to be standing up. To fly, you have to fall (and then just not hit the ground, of course). Of course, for even the simplest tasks there may be many steps required to make them happen. Skills you need to learn. Equipment you need to gather together. But the injunction is the simple step that almost inevitably leeds to the act. It isn’t just that you need to get into the water to swim. It’s that if you get in to the water, you almost inevitably will swim. However complex the task, once the injunction is performed the outcome starts to become inevitable. Strap yourself in to the rocket, and arrival at the moon is the logical outcome. Ask yourself why that apple fell out of the tree, and theories of gravity are only a few thousand hours of work away. The space between the injunction and the event might be separated by thousands of complex and difficult challenges, but once the injunction is performed, the outcome becomes somehow inevitable.

To write fiction, you must write and imagine AT THE SAME TIME. A two part injunction, both of which are required or writing is unlikely to happen. You can sit and stare at a blank piece of paper desperately THINKING about writing all you like, but unless you can actually engage the shy beast that is the imagination, nothing will happen. You can spend all day imagining the most amazing stories in the world, only to find that when your eventually sit down to write them it is as impossible as remembering lost dreams.

Every writer will have their own unique requirements around this basic injunction. Some need silence, others music or noise. Some like fountain pens, others manual typewriters. Some people like to read before they write. Others like physical exercise. But, whatever your specific requirements, the basic injunction for writing fiction remains the same:


Perform the injunction, and the outcome becomes (almost) inevitable.


Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

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