Second Tuesday – Writer’s Block and the Tooth Fairy

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.

This is my concept of the Tooth Fairy. I'm not scared.

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.

Bee hives. Not the same as the skin problem.

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.

This is the view when you hit the sidewalk. You don't want to do this.

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.

Butt, meet Chair. Chair, this is Butt. You shall be good friends.

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.


Writing Challenge:  WRITER’S BLOCK
  1. Second Tuesday 2: Words Shy of Daylight – Alberta Ross
  2. 12 & a ½ Ways to Deal with Writer’s’Block – Ruchira Mandal
  3. Second Tuesday – Writer’s Block – Patti Larsen
  4. Iain the Cat opines on Writer’s Block – Jeannie
  5. Using Writer’s Block as an Excuse to not Write – Rebeca Schilller
  6. Writer’s Block – Gary Varner
  7. Second Tuesday – Writer’s Block and the Tooth Fairy – Annetta Ribken
  8. Writer’s Block or Writer’s Withdrawal – Eden Baylee
  9. Breaking Past Writer’s Block – Elise VanCise
This post is part of a monthly writing challenge known as “Second Tuesday,” written by members of the Fellow Writers’ Facebook group. Click on any link above to read another “Second Tuesday” post. Enjoy!

Find “Not Nice and Other Understatements” at Amazon and now at Smashwords in any format you desire! Autographed copies are still available through the link on this page. Spread the word! And thanks for all of your support!

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High Fiber Ideas for the Constipated Writer

Whether you’re a writer of fiction, non-fiction, or both, there will be times when you feel “stuck”. I don’t believe in writer’s block, but I do believe in writer’s constipation. I have found at this point, trying to force it will often cause more problems than it solves, although at times you just have to put your head down and power through it.

There is no “cure” for writer’s constipation – chances are you’ll encounter this uncomfortable state of affairs more than once in your freelancing career, but there are some things you can do that may have the same effect as a bran-loaded muffin. The next time you find yourself stopped up, so to speak, try one of these methods and see if you can’t get yourself moving again in the right direction.

Turn off the time sinks. That’s right. Turn off Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, etc. Oh sure, you can justify it by saying, “I’m networking, and that’s part of the job,” and it’s true. However, if you can’t get your articles, chapters, or other work written because someone just sent you a cool new app on FB, or you’ve gotten a notice of a new follower on Twitter, it’s time to pull the plug. Set aside a specific time for networking every day, and stick to it. Trust me, you won’t miss anything that you can’t catch up on later, and you’ll be amazed at how much more you can accomplish. In the same vein, close down the chat programs. If your friends don’t understand why you can’t spend an hour chatting, they don’t understand your job. Educate them politely, and schedule free time for a good chat session when you can participate without sacrificing valuable work time.

Turn off outside distractions. Turn off the phone, turn off the television. Turn off the music, even, to give yourself a chance to think without any distraction whatsoever. Hear that? Yeah, that’s called “quiet”, and it’s wonderful. It might be difficult for you to shut the phone down especially if you have children or parents to worry about, but an hour or two a day won’t hurt. If you can’t turn the phone off because of possible emergency calls, at least screen them and only answer if there IS an emergency.

Change your tools and venue. Sometimes, the old ways work best. If you’re used to working on a keyboard, grab a pen and a pad of paper instead – you know, that round thing filled with ink and that stuff made out of trees? Change your location. Instead of working at your desk, try working at the kitchen table, the local coffee shop, the library, from bed. You might be totally surprised at how a simple change can loosen up the thinking process.

Work more than one project at a time. Freelancing is a juggling act in the best and worst of times, and you most likely have more than one project going, anyway. If one has you bugged up, unless you’re up against a hard deadline, put it aside and pull out the next thing. If you don’t have another project to work on, pull out a sheet of paper (or open another document in your word processor program) and free write for ten minutes about anything that comes into your mind. Sometimes, all there is to doing it is to – that’s right – do it.


Take a time out. Walk around the block. Eat lunch anywhere else but at your desk (don’t play; I know you eat lunch at your desk almost every day.) Take a drive; work out for thirty minutes, read a book. Or how about this – take a day off! Freelancers are notorious for working long, crazy hours, and that seems to be a requisite of the job. However, if you don’t take some time off, you’re going to burn out. Guaranteed. So, take a break and don’t feel guilty. You will be pleasantly surprised how a well-timed break, interaction with other people in person, and relaxing away from the job will rejuvenate and energize, making you that much better at your job.

The next time you find yourself constipated, try one of these suggestions. Some of them might be as uncomfortable as eating a bowl of twigs and bran, or they might be as tasty as a fresh-baked muffin. Either way, the goal is to get the words moving, and any or all of these suggestions should do just that.

If you have any suggestions of your own that have worked for you, please share them!

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