How to Overcome Writer's Block Part 3
Here we are. Already at the end of our epic trilogy to slay writer’s block. In case you missed it, in our first piece, we went over how we can show up different to writing before we even step to the page. For round two, it was all about the freeze that occurs when facing the blank page.
At the end of that last article, I said the following:
There are no perfect words to find.
Just start writing.
Easier said than done, right? How does one just start when it seems so daunting to write that song/novel/memoir/poem/grant/essay?
Well, surprise! That’s what today’s all about.
3) Just do it already!
If you have never seen Shia Labeouf’s viral inspirational video, please take a moment to get inspired.
Did ya do it?
I mentioned early in the first article of this series that writer’s block doesn’t exist. I waited until now to explain deeper because I wanted to explore the importance of mindset in our writing first. We gotta have some major key context! Seriously, if you’re jumping in now, check here and here.
So what exactly do I mean by “Writer’s block doesn’t exist?”
You might be thinking, Of course it exists! I’m dealing with it right now! Easy for you to say Sir Writes-a-lot.
Even some very successful writers have confessed to suffering from this malaise. Hello, have you heard of George RR Martin?
I get it. I have had moments where the words don’t seem to come. Even as I was writing this very article, I had a moment where I thought I have no idea where to go next. What the heck do I say. What could I possibly write in this moment that will be good enough.
I let this feeling exist for 3 seconds, then I wrote something like this: dsjnveiwveo. Then I deleted it. Then I did it again: dfodfog. I kept the physical act of typing going, refusing to break. Then I wrote a sentence. Then I read it and thought Hmmm not quite. But it helped me figure out what I was trying to say. Pressed down backspace. Wrote something else. Deleted that. Tried something else.
Writing is trial and error at its core. In this moment, the analogy I think of is exploration through a maze. You pick a path and go along until you realize you’re stuck. Dead end. Then you backtrack a step or two and try a different word or sentence, and keep going. Lingering on one sentence/idea/concept/piece/body of work until it’s perfect can keep you stuck in the maze.
Just keep exploring the maze. Dead-end? Cool, that’s what being in a maze is all about. You signed up for it. Dead-ends are normal, par for the course. Just keep going. At some point, you either get out and are done with it, or you stay in it, but pick up the tools of the editor with the intention of tearing down walls to make a beautiful walkway.
And maybe that analogy doesn’t work. I’ll leave it here for now and make edits on my next revision. But I’m not going to stop and stare at it and say I have nothing to write.
I’ll repeat. Writer’s block doesn’t exist.
If a billionaire walked up to me and said, “I’ll give you a million dollars if you write any word you know on a sheet of paper, I don’t care which one” would I get caught up thinking...oh god, I need to make sure it’s a good one. No! One million dollars on the line? “Spruce” Done! Million dollars please!
If a murderer with a love for literature threatened to murder me unless I started writing something, anything, right now? “One two three four five triangle potassium ultra” Hurray! I get to live!
Okay. I know I’m being ridiculous. These scenarios are highly unreal and slightly condescending. But so is the idea of writer’s block!
Is someone actually physically blocking us from writing when we claim to have writer’s block? Maybe a bear has entered your home and you are fleeing your computer through the window right at this moment. Well, you have a pass then, and I hope that bear stops to read the rest of this article and becomes the first non-human creature to win a Pulitzer.
But if you are sitting at the computer and no words are coming, it’s because you are not physically writing. You are trying to think of what exactly needs to be said, instead of trying things out to see if they work on the page.
When I hear “I have writer’s block,” I really hear “I’m unwilling to make any mistakes on the page.” I hear “I’m unwilling to explore or play on the page.” I hear “I have to get this right. I have to please [insert name(s) here]. There’s only one possible thing to put on the page and I am unwilling to try anything else until I have exactly what I need.”
It’s allowing our dreams to be stopped by one “roadblock” in our ways that’s really just part of the process. It’s trying to solve a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle without picking up and moving around the pieces.
And even if you find the “perfect” words, chances are they’ll need edits and tweaks in the context of your whole project.
Writing doesn’t have to be a grueling, serious slog! Literally write anything. Then, KEEP GOING.
The human brain works by associations. Writing something down will allow the brain to consider the information, reorient and add to what has been written.
Sometimes, I’ll start my writing sessions like this: “djdiejcisoapqpqoqiwueejnc knsdoeogoriqndkcpek.” I do this to get my fingers used to the motion of forming words on the page and to know nothing I write is wrong. Also it lets my brain focus in on what I’m doing. Then I write stuff, knowing it probably won’t be in the finished product, but it’s 100% necessary to get to the finished product. I keep going, not letting any one idea or line become the point.
My job is to create complete works. No, they won’t be perfect. But I can take what I learn from one complete product and apply it to the next.
I’ll say this one last time.
Writer’ block doesn’t exist! Even if it feels like it does.
I know for me this feeling can occur when I think the process is supposed to just flow from me naturally. I want great quality work, but spend too much time considering the best possible outcomes. I come up with excuses to not write. I even dread the process because it’ll never be as good on the page as it is in my head. I want maximum output, every moment, every time.
The way to overcome this feeling?
Acknowledge it’ll be a trial and error process. Expecting your work to be magical great all the time is unrealistic and disheartening. Your drafts will have flaws. Every. Single. Time. Accept that as part of the process.
Focus on finding any words that work, rather than the absolute best perfect right ones, at least for now.
Show up. Write something. Be satisfied that you’ve written today. Go about your day. Go to sleep. Wake up. Repeat at your own pace. Day by day, you’ll accumulate pages. You’ll edit what you’ve written. Before you know it, you’ll have completed a project.
You can’t have any finished work until you write your first word. It can be something random like "Satchel." Now go!
And if you need more convincing, I’ll leave you with this quote from Maya Angelou.
“What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat,’.... And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.” -Brandon Rumaker Editor-in-Chief of the I AM Series Blog
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