How to Defeat Writer's Block (Part 1)
A blank page. A deadline. Thoughts racing through your head. I can’t do this. I don’t know what to write about. I’m stuck. I’m screwed!
Then you start cleaning. At least I’m being productive. Then you have a whole to-do list of
things to get done to justify why you aren’t writing.
You know what this means. Writer’s block.
The dreaded scourge of every writer and college student with a deadline.
What will you do? You scroll through social media and check your email, frantic as the clock is tick tick ticking away.
How do people overcome this menace?
There was a point where I just couldn’t get myself to face the blank page, for days, even weeks, at a time. I felt like something was seriously wrong with me. I started googling and researching writing process and method to figure out what to do.
These days, I firmly believe writer’s block is a myth (more on that later), thanks to some
weapons I’ve gathered to conquer any blank page.
Today I’ll offer 1 mindset shift that changed everything for me, with more to come in following weeks!
1) Writing requires muscle, not magic.
Okay, what? Writing requires muscle, not magic? I thought you were going to crack the code,
not speak in riddles.
Maybe it’s just me, but I find a lot of people, both writers and non-writers, romanticize the
process. Here are a few quotes, some real, some not, that highlight what I means.
“I write when it comes to me.”
“I’ll write when I’m inspired.”
“You’re such a genius, your words are so brilliant.”
“I know it’s worth writing because I feel this passionate fire.”
Ohhhh. Ahhhh. Writing has this air of mystery to it, where the audience (aka the reader) cannot fathom how the act is done. It’s magic.
Except it isn’t. Sorry to pull a Penn and Teller and reveal the magician’s secret, but to begin
writing means to stop treating it like this magical, romantic act. Look at it. It’s putting a pen to
paper or fingers to a keyboard. That’s it!
No woo-woo or smoke and mirrors. Writing is simply the physical act of conveying information through symbols. That is it. Writing is not reserved for geniuses or “creatives,” whatever that means. If you can form symbols, you can write.
Now, I can already hear you. But Brandon, when I try to write, nothing I write is any good.
To that idea, I say, I hear you. Counterpoint: No first draft will be “good” (aka a finished product that will win prizes and grant you millions of dollars). Every first draft is a starting point. Like, not even a foot in the race yet. You’re just translating what’s in your brain, through electrical signals and neurochemical inputs, into symbols that convey meaning to people who have trained their brains to understand the signals.
No first draft will be perfect, because the writing process requires trial and error to translate what your mind originally created into tangible words.
So how does one get from bad first draft to god-tier level artistry and craftsmanship?
They show up and do the dang thing.
A common piece of wisdom passed from writer to writer is to write every day. Popular novelists such as Stephen King and Haruki Murakami have said the first task they take on each day is their writing work.
Does that mean I’m telling you to write every day? No.
I’m reasonable--I know some people are at the gym daily, and some people are there a few days a week. Or once in a blue moon. There is no judgement around it. As long as you are consistent over a long-term period of weeks, months, and years, you are working those writer muscles. Everyone needs a break once in awhile.
But if you don’t write AT ALL, there will be no gains. No muscle for writing, both literally and figuratively, can form if you are waiting for the right time or idea or energy to begin writing.
The process can seem tedious or frustrating, especially if you think brilliant writing
You may even find yourself looking for reasons to avoid doing the challenging
Writing isn’t magic. Writing is a muscle. Do it--write anything. Let it be bad, because
first drafts are always less good than a scrutinized finished work. Once you start writing
regularly, you can turn your gibberish first attempt into something more thoughtful by looking it over and editing it. Just do it!
Shift from magic to muscle.
Some days it’s fun, other days it’s rough. Most people who go to the gym or to their job don’t feel extraordinary levels of inspirations every time they do it. The same goes for the act of transcribing thoughts into physical characters on a page.
Writing, like most things, gets easier with consistent practice. The first workout hurts. The first day at a new job can be stressful. The first minutes of a dedicated writing practice can seem miserable.
But it gets better. Write through it. Write about having writer's block!
Have fun with it!
Next time we’ll dig a little deep into the cry-inducing onion that is writer’s block, but for now, I invite you to try writing about the first thing that comes to mind, even if it seems silly or dumb.
Brandon is the Head Editor of all the "I AM" Series Blog. You can catch him hosting the "I AM" Series Featured Artist & Open Mic event held every third Friday of the month at Bar Thalia. This month's theme is PRIDE, on 6/21. Doors open at 8:30.