A Facebook friend of mine posted a status update saying she had Writer’s Block. I gave her some advice, which I sincerely hope was helpful, but I didn’t tell her what I really think.
Writer’s Block doesn’t exist.
For those of us who have sat staring for minutes (hours?) at a blank page with no ideas and no writing-related brain activity, hoping the best of brilliant words would suddenly flow fresh and poignant from our fingers, stay with me.
There is no such thing as writer’s block. It’s a lie. It’s the monster hiding under your bed or lurking in your closet or whispering sour nothings in your head that isn’t really there. Granted, it’s taken many years and overcoming many typical writers’ obstacles for me to believe that. But I do. It’s true.
Writer’s block is like other deterrents and detours that can get in the way of our writing. We work through challenges like difficulty finding time to write or research, sidetracks like reading blogs (not this one, of course) or spending too much time engaged in other social media and more. Maybe, too, there’s something else holding you back and creating writer’s block. That may be you.
I recently read that the greatest obstacle to most writers is themselves. If you are an obstacle to your own writing, you’re not alone. If you write, you have likely had to shed negativity, bad habits, disbelief, and more in order to follow your creative path. Any or all of these can help feed the monster formerly known as writer’s block.
It is absolutely not easy to be a writer. To be good, it takes copious amounts of time, courage, discipline, alcohol (no, wait, that’s a stereotype), and the ongoing will to sit in the seat and write. Whether it’s fear of failure, unbelief in ourselves and/or our abilities, or some other internal hindrance, the list of obstacles we can place in our own way is a long one. I have found myself almost always willing to put something in the way of my accomplishing my writing goals. But not writer’s block. Not anymore.
I’ve had the moment when the scary shadow turns into a hoodie or raincoat hanging on the door once the light hits it. The monster formerly known has been revealed, and as such, discounted and dismissed. There are a couple of reasons behind this personal dismissal of writer’s block.
- My growth as a writer over time. I’ve been writing and editing professionally for about fifteen years. While I love creating fiction, most of my writing over the years has been nonfiction, in many forms. And with those many forms have come many deadlines. If you learn how to meet deadlines (and the how can be different for everyone), you will kill writer’s block. Once you decide it’s dead, you won’t even see it, because there is no room for not writing when writing has to be done. Especially when the writing means extra dollars in your bank account every month.
- Experience. I’m not the most experienced writer by far, but I do have years of learning, pursuing, and implementing the craft to draw from in vanquishing writer’s block. When I go in front of the page, I’m typically able to get started and generate copy, because it’s as familiar as eating when dinner is on the table before me. I’ve done it, and having been there before, I now find it’s not too hard to keep the words flowing.
So, for me, writer’s block is a thing of the past. Perhaps I’ve outgrown it, or perhaps I’ve gained the experience and confidence to keep the pen (or keys) moving. If you’re producing words, you’re not blocked. If you are blocked, experienced writer or novice, you to can smack writer’s block upside the head..and get unstuck.
Four tips on getting the words flowing:
- Take five or ten minutes away from the keyboard. Refresh your beverage, take out the trash or the dog…then get back to it. You’d be surprised at how much work a mindless task or a short break will let your brain get done in the background.
- You don’t know where to go with the next scene? Add a knock at the door. Who’s there? Maybe it’s a dwarf holding a basket of dirty laundry (a former fiction teacher at the Antioch Writers Workshop used this example). You may not want to add a dwarf to your story, but if you do, you definitely have something else to write about. After the knock on the door, it could be anyone. The point is, introduce another element that even you don’t expect.
- Choose a character and have them do something they wouldn’t do. Try to write that independently and see if it clicks. You may have discovered another point of conflict to use in the work.
- Write something. Anything. Pour words onto the page. Just…keep…writing. If it goes a strange direction, or isn’t something you like, or doesn’t seem to fit, it doesn’t matter, as long as you keep writing. That’s what editing is for. Connect loose ends, adding cogent details, deleting weird tangents, and shaping your work into being as good as you can make it.
Do you believe in writer’s block? What have you done to get past it? Share here, and maybe you’ll help a fellow wordsmith.