This blog post is courtesy of a blogfest initiated by the lovely and talented Patti Larsen known as “Second Tuesday”. This month’s topic is “Writer’s Block”, and I encourage you to visit the blogs located at the end of this post to see what other writers think about this subject. Thanks also to Gary Varner for saving us this time around with some nifty coding skillz.
I’ve covered “writer’s block” more than once on this site, but it really seems to be a recurring topic of conversation among my writer friends, and I can sympathize even though I believe in writer’s block about as much as I believe in the Tooth Fairy.
Even though I don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy…uh, I mean WRITER’S BLOCK, I do believe in writer’s constipation. There are a lot of good suggestions in that post and in the comments to help try to shake you out of the rut. But actually, all the advice you will read about “writer’s block” boils down to one important concept:
SIT YOUR BUTT DOWN AND WRITE.
There could be a lot of things stopping you. The stress and wear and tear of “regular” life is enormous for most of us. Many of us work a “real” job in addition to slinging words around, some of us are depending on a significant other or spouse to support us while we get our writing legs underneath us. A lot of us have families in addition to our other job, some of us only have ourselves on which to depend. Add all that up and what you have is a lot of pressure to perform, to produce. Instead of opening the floodgate, this can actually paralyze a writer into looking at a blank page and breaking out in hives and other embarrassing skin eruptions.
Like the bee hives in the photo, you have to get busy. Sure, a blank page is intimidating. All those wonderful ideas you had last night while you were falling asleep have faded in the dawn, and your mind feels as blank as the page. Despair eats at your guts, and you wonder if you have it in you to write so much as a grocery list, not to mention a full-length novel, a scintillating short story or the article due tomorrow.
I used to think I had writer’s block every time I sat down to the computer and I’d start to panic. Before I even wrote a word. I’d break out in a sweat and start thinking, “Oh my GAWD, what am I going to write? I can’t think of a thing. I’m a failure. I suck. I suck so bad they’re gonna call me the Queen of Suckage. I’m tapped out. I got nothin’. I’ve told all the stories I have to tell. The well has done dried up, there’s nothing left. I’m done.” Then I’d start contemplating ways to fall on my sword so no one would catch on that I wasn’t writing anything anymore.
This is the scary part about writing. It’s rather like jumping off a high building.
Will you hit the sidewalk in a splat of guts and blood? Will you float down gently and land like a petal on the wind? Well, that’s the challenge, isn’t it?
You know what broke me out of that kind of mind-set? Writing non-fiction for a living. Clients don’t care about your bullshit angst, they care about whether or not you’re hitting the deadline. Of course quality counts, but you’d better hit that deadline and produce what’s been paid for. Otherwise, you have compromised your reputation and the very bread on the table. Believe me, that’s a powerful motivation. I try to carry that over into fiction, with some success. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I struggle too! Every damned day! But here’s one thing I do every day that a lot of people don’t…
I SIT MY BUTT DOWN AND WRITE.
Just start. One word at a time. Will it be crap? Doesn’t matter. Will it be grand? Doesn’t matter. Will it make sense, flow like a river, soar like an eagle or bomb like a fart in church? Doesn’t matter. What matters is getting the words on the paper. If you can’t face a short story, write a blog post. If you feel you can’t write a blog post, write a letter to someone, living or dead. If you can’t do that, grab a yellow legal pad and just write whatever comes in your head, even if it’s I CAN DO THIS I CAN DO THIS over and over. Not every “cure” for writer’s “block” (picture me doing the little quotey thing with my fingers as you read that as a visual aid – you’re welcome) is going to work for you, but chances are there’s something that will help you over the hump.
The fear can be paralyzing. The only way through it is through it. Don’t let the fears of inadequacy, the pressures of life or the self-doubts all writers wrestle with stop you.
SIT YOUR BUTT DOWN AND WRITE.
It’s as simple and as difficult as that. Power through it. Make it happen. Put all the stress, doubts and bullshit excuses in a trunk, lock it and stick the key in a flowerpot.
That ain’t the Tooth Fairy and that ain’t writer’s block.
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