Anyone who has been a writer for more than a hot second has experienced writer’s block. It’s one of those strange, shape-shifting creatures that can last for any length of time, comes and goes as it pleases, and can be a minor annoyance or an awful, ever-growing, monstrous presence over which you feel you have no control.
I had experienced one form of writer’s block for my entire life, until recently, and it was the kind that made me question whether writer’s block actually existed at all, or if it was just a fancy term for lazy. It’s that state of mind where you feel like you can’t write until inspiration hits. Or: “Well, I want to get some writing done, but there’s an Indiana Jones marathon on tv…”
Over this past year, I’ve had a more troublesome version of the dreaded affliction. The best way I can describe the feeling is having lost my way with words. I had new ideas, and built on some old ideas, but when it came to writing attempts, the entire English language escaped me. There were blog posts that were deleted before I finished them because they were flat and boring and didn’t seem to say anything worth sharing. It was frustrating to say the least, disheartening, and led me to wonder once in a while if I should really keep trying to be a writer. Existential crisis much?!
Most often, though, it seems that writer’s block is just a series of excuses given to justify why you’re not writing. It’s pretty much fabricated due to anxiety, laziness, or some other underlying reason you’ve decided you’re not “in the mood” to write. The following are a few of the excuses I have been using:
- I can’t write this thing until I’ve written this other thing! Unless you have actual deadlines for specific pieces, the order in which they’re written is not usually relevant. Certain stories, characters, ideas, etc. push their way to the front. Creative ideas do not stay in a single file line, waiting their turn. They’re more like cattle, and you have to wrangle them, chase after the ones that run off, and occasionally one gets eaten by coyotes, wolves, tigers, boa constrictors…
- I don’t have a good place to submit or share that piece! This is a legitimate consideration when it comes to publishing pieces, but that part can’t be done until after they’re written! You’re definitely getting ahead of yourself if you’re giving the publishing and marketing aspects of things this much attention before you do the writing itself. Or, to look at it another way, it may mean that you’re not a writer at all, but just someone who wants to sell your ideas. There is a big difference. Focus on the writing part. Create your content. Then worry about finding the right platform for it.
- The idea isn’t ready yet! There is sense and silliness to this thought. There are times when a story needs time to percolate in your mind, to form a clearer picture, before you can grasp it enough to put it on paper (physical or virtual). If that’s the case, sure, hold off on that idea, and write something else. However, if you’re waiting until you have the whole thing crafted so that you can write a mind-blowing first draft, you’re wasting time. Getting the story perfect, or right, or whatever you’re aiming for, is better left to the realm of editing. Your first draft will not be a masterpiece. Accept this, and get down to business.
The truth is that sometimes writer’s block gets the best of you for a little while, but the best way to push through it, no matter what variety you have, is to just keep writing. This is the type of advice that doesn’t seem entirely helpful when you feel like you need an extra push, but it is a fact that all writers eventually learn. I didn’t follow this advice much this past year, I’ll admit. With the writing goals I’ve set for 2015, I can’t allow writer’s block to slow me down. I thought I’d debunk the condition before starting this new journey, as a way to remind myself that writer’s block only has power if you let it.
This post is raw, unedited, just barely proofread. In the near future I might be writing more carefully crafted posts, but this is mostly another stream of consciousness offering from someone who sometimes has interesting thoughts.