I long to find a magical cure for writer’s block. I’m constantly searching for tips and tricks to overcome this condition, and I’ve used many different excuses to avoid writing over the years. I keep telling myself if I just had this or just had that, I could make a living with my writing. Yes, a writer who doesn’t write.
I’ve read all the interviews and advice on writing. Some authors claim to have access to a force from beyond this plane. They profess that when they write, it’s as though mystical energy overtakes them. The words flow through their fingers like magic.
Others declare their New York Times bestselling idea came to them in a dream, so of course they were able to write a nearly perfect first draft in a matter of days.
Stephen King, one of the cruelest ones, has suggested butt in chair, at the same time every day, is the only thing that will make you a better writer. That, and a lot of literary analysis. And coffee.
Everyone Has a Story to Tell
I’m more inclined to believe the real truth lies within this latter advice. Fortunately, the majority of published authors seem to be extending this type of guidance, as opposed to peddling the fallacy that you must be born with rare talent. I’ve never understood why some authors feel the need to knock people down with such notions. Writing well isn’t always easy, but it’s not beyond reach. There’s room for everyone in some way or another because we all have a story to tell. Why does it have to be a competition? We should be lifting each other up!
I love writing about my thoughts and opinions, but I would ultimately like to write fiction. This form of writing is also what scares me the most. For some reason, I have no problem bearing my soul personally, but staring at a blank page with fiction in mind gives me writer’s block. The thought of creating a world with characters who embody the human condition, and being bad at it, terrifies me. My perfectionism just stated,”
“I’d rather not write at all if it means I’m not going to be amazing.”
As amazing as Stephen King, overnight. [Face palm]
Standard writing advice offers that everyone, even Stephen King, writes “shitty first drafts.” This means you should just get it written. Turn off your inner editor and put something down on the page. I understand fighting your inner editor is a necessary part of the process, but how do you defeat perfectionism when you don’t even want to share those shitty first drafts with yourself?
Our Inner and Outer Worlds
I recently read an article that resonated strongly with me and sent me off for further research on writer’s block. In the article, writer William Kenower discusses facing the blank page. He explains that even now, after 25 years of writing professionally, he struggles when he first sits down to work. He writes,
“Every time I sit down at my desk, whether I’m working on a book or a blog, I am never in the mood to write. In fact, I often begin my day’s work with this thought: I’ve got nothing.”
Kenower explains that we have an inner world and an outer world, both important, but wholly different. We need to learn to separate the two, so we can get into the flow and write without distractions. The outer world is our sensory environment, and we secure many of our ideas from it. For example, we may find ideas from conversations we’ve heard or stories we’ve read. To write, however, we need to return our focus within.
Interest Goes Beyond Money and Fame
Sometimes we’ve been so focused on our external drama that it feels impossible to face a blank page. Kenower explains this doesn’t mean we aren’t good writers,
“All it means is that you are not yet connected to the source of all your writing inspiration, that you have not yet moved your attention fully inward.”
He goes on to suggest why some people don’t write at all,
“For many, particularly beginning writers, this first moment keeps them from the desk altogether. No matter how good it feels to be in the flow, beginning can be so uncomfortable, so disheartening, that many of the clients I work with do all they can to avoid writing. Better to not write than to sit down and feel like they have nothing to say. Better to walk around feeling mildly like a failure for having spent the day vacuuming the drapes than to feel that dull, dead-inside hollowness of facing a blank page with nothing in your mind, no inspiration, no ideas, no nothing. Except you have to start with nothing. You have to let the movie you were watching and the thoughts you were thinking end before you can begin seeing your story.”
This was like reading my life story, and then he added this tip about interest:
“And this is the final technique and the heart of the writing frame of mind: interest. Interest for interest’s sake. Not being interested in something because you’ll be paid to write it, not interested in it so you can feel productive and useful and leave your mark on the world. No, being interested simply because being interested feels good.”
Some truth right there. Here’s a link to the full article on the Writer’s Digest Site: The Cold Open: Facing the Blank Page.
I’m Going Through Changes
Cue up Ozzy! Recently, a lot of things have changed for me. This has made me reconsider what I want for my future. My full-time day job laid me off just before the pandemic. Consequently, my part-time fun job furloughed me due to COVID. As a result, I have currently have no income, and I’m stuck at home with nothing but creative opportunities. I want to be one of those people who gains a new skill, or develops an existing one, during this pandemic.
Writing is the only thing that has ever made me feel right in the world. So even if I never make millions or become a bestselling author, I still believe further developing my skills is worth it.
Writer’s Block: The Ultimate Tool is Commitment to a Daily Practice
I’ve been trying to figure out how to overcome my writer’s block and encourage myself to form a daily writing habit. I’ve journaled throughout my life, but I never thought of it as a tool I could use to establish a daily writing habit, let alone improve my writing. I started doing “morning pages” on March 23rd, though, and I’ve yet to break the Jerry Seinfeld chain. It has also allowed me to start conquering my perfectionism.
And right now, I’m finishing up a post that’s going to end up being over 1200 words. I’m not writing fiction as often as I would like. I’m showing up, though, and that’s a significant and necessary step forward.
If you’re so inclined, I have created a page All About Writing, which includes sub-pages for Writing Definitions, Writing Tips, Writing Resources.
I will continue to add to it as I gather more. I would love nothing more than to share what I’ve learned if it helps you out as well.
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