Happy hump day, dear reader! Let me ask you something: what’s the one thing all writers face eventually? Crippling depression? Confronting their childhood trauma? The struggle to pick the perfect font? Those are all valid answers, but what I’m talking about today is the old alleged writer’s block.
I know some of you are looking at that title and raging. First I tell you the ego doesn’t exist and now I’m telling you that writers block is a myth? How dare I? What am I going to tell you next, the Earth actually isn’t flat and it’s not run by a secret race of lizard people?
Yes, dear reader, much like ridiculous conspiracy theories, the thing keeping you from sitting down and getting your words out – that great monolith in your mind – is not real.
It’s a sham. A flim-flam. A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad part of every writer’s journey.
But I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be.
Because it doesn’t exist.
You might be asking, “But what about the countless articles describing ways to get over it?” Those are just great lists of what other writers do when they don’t feel like writing, and I suggest you try any that resonate with you. Even if it’s something you love, you’re going to find times when you don’t feel like doing it. I love eating, but there are some times when I’m just too tired to make food in the evening. But that’s okay because I get to have an extra big breakfast the next day!
There is no block, only the idea, the thought of a block. And the weird thing is, it’s not even your thought. It’s your inner critic’s.
Your inner critic is in many ways similar to your ego. It wants to keep you safe by keeping you still. It remembers every time you’ve stepped outside of your comfort zone and every time you tried something for the first time and it wasn’t instantly perfect. So when you sit down to create, it’s gonna throw up that block to keep you “safe” by its skewed definition.
There is no block, merely the idea of a block.
If you keep imagining there’s a block, a block will appear. As you’re imagining yourself dealing with this block, pulling out what little hair you have left, you change the image. Your mind is an infinite feedback loop and what you put in will be reinforced. Imagine yourself there with a full head of hair and the words flowing from your fingertips (or pen, or pencil, or from your mouth into a voice recorder). If you can imagine a block, you can imagine yourself being the badass writer I know you are.
Before we knew Just Kidding Rowling was a raging TERF, she said, “The wonderful thing about writing is that there is always a blank page waiting. The terrifying thing about writing is that there is always a blank page waiting.”
The blank page is limitless potential, just like you, dear reader.
You are limitless. Let it out!
A limitless being like you knows nothing of blocks, of limitations. Look that block square in the right angle and say, no thank you, not for me.
And please, for the love of the lizard people, stop comparing your first day on a writing project to the stack of books scattered about the room! Do you really think every book was just spewed onto the page that way the very first time? No! You can’t just chug wine and rail coke for 24 hours and come up with perfection. You’re not David Bowie (RIP).
You don’t see the countless rewrites and edits. You don’t see the hours of agony, of fretting, of hand-wringing. And that’s a good thing! Books are better without the writer’s neurosis. However, I share Carl Jung’s thoughts about neurosis:
“I am not altogether pessimistic about neurosis. In many cases we have to say, ‘Thank heaven he could make up his mind to be neurotic.’ Neurosis is really an attempt at self-cure…It is an attempt of the self-regulating psychic system to restore the balance, in no way different from the function of dreams – only rather more forceful and drastic.”Carl Jung, The Symbolic Life (affiliate)
So for some, writing is an attempt at self-cure (hello), but remember, you have the capacity to handle your experience, and writing is how I make sense of my experience. So what about your experience do you think is blocking you? Write it out!
My solution for writer’s block is to first admit that it’s just an idea. Once you can wrap your head around that, you can start writing to yourself and asking questions about it.
Where do you imagine the block exists inside you? Can you point to it, specifically? Does it have a taste? How about a smell? What color is it? Is it hot or cold? Is it reminiscent of any other other Katy Perry song? Now you’re writing about something ridiculous, but you are writing, and the fact that you’re writing must mean that there is nothing to block you from writing.
Also, have time scheduled every day when you write. Obviously inspiration will strike when it does, and when it does you must follow that Muse to its end. But once you make it a daily practice to sit down at the same time to write you’re going to have more and more moments where the Muse shows up for longer and longer stretches of time. Be it morning or night, put your phone on airplane mode, set a timer and write until the timer goes. Do NOT waver from this. It might be a challenge at first, but if habits were easy to build, then everyone would be doing their thang 24/7. If you start this today, I promise you that by the time Friday rolls around, the words will flow. You can walk right up to that no-longer-blank page and tell it you’re done fucking around.
There is no block.
Share your ideas about writer’s block in the comments below!