Earlier today I went to Wikipedia, and typed in “writer’s block”. As expected, I found an entry. Then I typed in “submissions block” and as expected there was no entry. Writers talk a lot about writer’s block (the inability to write), but there isn’t as much talk about submissions block (the inability to submit one’s work).
But submissions block can ruin a writing career as badly as writer’s block can. I should know, I had it for four years.
Submissions block can be fueled by different emotions: 1) a sense of futility – i.e. there’s so many books in the universe already, why bother?, 2) guilt – i.e. why am I wasting my time on this when it won’t make money when I could be doing something else to help support my family, 3) pain of rejection – i.e. if I don’t send it out, I won’t get rejection letters, and 4) the fear of getting attacked if people notice you – i.e. if I don’t send anything out, I don’t have to worry about pissing people off and having them come after me.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
It turned out in my case #4 (fear of being attacked) was the big fueler of the submissions block. I had to come up with a detailed game plan with specific goals to get past this fear. I’ve broken the block and have begun submitting my work, and to deepen the desensitization process I’ll be blogging (probably a lot). I don’t recommend blogging to people dealing with #4 until they’ve reached the point they know they can deal with any personal attacks that might happen.
There are two books by Ralph Keyes that I pull off the reference shelf at least 3-4 times each month whenever I sense the submissions block is coming back. The names of the books (which do a great job telling you exactly what they are about) are The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear ( ISBN 0-8050-7467-8 ) and The Writer’s Book of Hope: Getting From Frustration To Publication (ISBN 0-8050-7235-7). Both books talk in great depth about the emotions involved in being a writer, and have inspiring stories of how other writers have overcome writer’s block, submissions block, or other challenges. You can read excerpts from each book at the website of Ralph Keyes.