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I’ve long been a firm disbeliever in writer’s block. We’ve discussed this before, but with all of the New Year’s resolutions flying about, writers buckling down to “serious” productivity in 2018 and whatnot, I think it’s a good idea to look at this strange phenomenon again. I’d hate to see you all getting worked up because you’re not able to produce what you’ve promised yourself you would. And it’d be really annoying to see you on social media bitching about how writer’s block has struck again.
I call writer’s block a strange thing, because, although it’s not a real condition, for many writers, it feels very real. It is smothering, panic-inducing, and, sometimes, paralyzing. However, I still maintain that writer’s block is a fantasy, and it is not something that should keep you from writing.
I’ll explain. Lately, I’ve found it extremely difficult to produce anything worthwhile. Am I out of ideas? No. I’ve got lots of those. When I sit down to write, though, it’s like… I just can’t. I’m not blocked, so what’ the problem?
There are a number of reasons why I’m not as productive as I have been in the past, and in my experience, these reasons are what cause many writers to feel like they’ve got nothing left, when they actually have tons of creative juice in their brains.
Sometimes you do something great. You put a story out there that everyone loves and it’s a wonderful feeling. But after that wonderful shit comes the fear. What if you can’t do it again? What if that’s the only good thing you’ve got in you? You begin to second guess every piece of writing you produce, until you’re afraid to even try.
Or, on the other side of the coin, some of us struggle to produce anything we feel is worth publishing. Some of us publish, but get a lukewarm reception, or (worse) everyone hates it (according to reviews). After this, the fear that you’re really not that good at writing can be powerful. More powerful than your love for the craft.
So, we freeze when we see that white screen. Our fear of failure is so strong, we can’t start a single sentence. Ideas are rolling around in our heads, but we just can’t start.
That feeling of powerlessness we get when we have trouble putting ideas down on a page in a way that reads like a story, is a little addicting. It’s scary, but at least we have an excuse for sucking, right? The more you indulge that fear, the more paralyzed you’ll feel and the harder it’ll be to find the words.
Work through it. Eventually, the fear will fade, and you’ll be back to your old self. I promise.
Writing for many of us is a luxury. We do it when we have time, and if life says we don’t, well, we have to take care of our responsibilities until it says we do. The stress of the many things in our lives needing our attention can suck every ounce of creativity from our brains. Fighting it seems to make it worse. And then, when we do get time, we’ve been so worked up over not having time, that everything we manage to write seems like utter shit.
It’s not. Remember that. Just keep going. Instead of stressing yourself over the writing you’re NOT doing, start appreciating whatever time you do find to get words on the page. Try to view writing as a way to relax, not as one more responsibility on your plate. Writing shouldn’t be part of your “to do” list. I mean, you don’t put things like Netflix, recreational activities, bubble baths, sex, etc. on your chore list, do you? (if you do, you’re a little odd)
If you can view writing as “your” time to decompress and your way of shedding the shitty details of your day-to-day, the words will come. I’ve been there, and I’m still there, so I know what I’m talking about.
When my writing income was what helped pay the bills, my motivation to write was strong. My NEED to write was strong. If I don’t produce, I don’t eat. So, I did what I had to do to keep the creative juices flowing, and man, did I keep them flowing. When writing was my “job” I produced more than I ever have in my life.
I had to. Now, I work a “day job” and write on the side, when I have time. The need to write just isn’t there. Well, not in the same way. I can do it because I want to. And, I have to be honest, sometimes laziness wins out and I just don’t do it.
Speaking of laziness…
Sometimes we’re just tired. We don’t feel like writing. That’s okay. Nothing wrong with a little break. Get some rest for your weary head. Take the time to rejuvenate the old body and mind. You’re not blocked. Your brain just needs some “me” time. Give it what it needs.
Sometimes writer’s block is part of a little play we like to perform for our readers. It’s all right if you like to indulge in a little make believe now and then, but when it starts to feel real, then you’ve gone too far. The fantasy of the tortured artist is pretty romantic. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be viewed as this strange and tragic creature who is at the mercy of her muse?
Look, it’s okay to pretend you’re some mystical thing driven by forces beyond your control, as long as you remember it’s not real. The sooner you stop indulging in the fantasy you’ve concocted of how a writer’s life should be, the sooner you’ll get back to making words on the page. Seriously. A muse is a fine fairy tale, but characters don’t really speak to you and you are not at the mercy of unseen fictional forces. Butt in chair. Write. Easy as that.
The Bottom Line:
My advice to any of you making writing resolutions this year (when you find yourself struggling to produce what you want to produce) is to avoid weighing yourself down with word count goals. Make a resolution to WRITE SOMETHING, every day or every week. That’s it. Don’t add another stressor to the mix, don’t make writing something you must do (unless you actually must do it), and have fun.
Actually, that’s the most important thing in this whole process. Enjoy creating, because if you’re not enjoying it, I have to wonder why you’re doing it at all.