This one’s for the wordsmiths.
Let’s talk about it. I want to meet this damn phenomenon in the face.
Why does this exist in our profession? Because they say if you write, if you even try it for like a week or two, one day you’ll sit down to face the dreaded mental blockade of no return.
At some point you’re at a loss to answer either.
I know I’ve been there. I’m drinking a bottle of wine in refusal to give up.
Anyway, this is my proverbial slingshot.
Type a few words. Look back at the beginning — despite being in the middle of a sentence — and pause to start it all over again.
Resist. The. Urge. To. Edit. And. Write.
Let the typos come. Oh God the typos. Take a sip of wine then work through the passive voice or the fucking adverbs. (I seriously* wish we didn’t have those things) Fight the urge to give up.
Listen to your favorite Bach arrangement, or in my case ‘Betray My Heart’ by D’Angelo on repeat.
Debate with yourself if sharing your lyrics, poems, stories, and scripts with humanity feels like a wildly vulnerable experience. Consider with a straight face that you’re probably crazy.
“How the hell does anyone do it?” you wonder.
Then you leap off the cliff of adjectives anyway because it’s your thing.
You write. You always have.
Anyone who knows you well can find your box of old journals or remind you, again, that you have more books than shelves.
Don’t forget the quick notes and emails you send yourself when you catch a prolific bit of James in the wind. (Yes that was a pun, keep up.)
It’s always been there. The way you take language and sculpt it into art.
It’s our thing. Writers who crave it. So why the block? Why the resistance?
Grooves are for writers who want to write, but aren’t actually writing. Any advice I’ve found lately says fuck waiting for inspiration.
Gnaw at it with your teeth or run around a track for it. Bleed if you have to. Otherwise don’t come to it.
Some say treat it like a job. No. I’ll pass. I never want to come to the hallowed space of a blank page and call it a job. Getting paid isn’t what I do this for. Still. I can’t listen to Cardi B and not grab a coin or two.
I write because if I don’t, I’ll explode words all over my family and friends. I’d rather act. But that’s another story for another day.
If I had to consider what gets me through writer’s block it would be:
- Doing it. Letting the damn stream of consciousness sneak into any essay/fiction/script/poem. Everyone’s right. It sounds kind of crazy but eventually you get back on track with your original message. It’s less about perfection and more about finding the rhythm. Trust it. You’ll take care of yourself in the edit. You always do.
- I try to stretch before I touch the keys. It helps to physically move my body. Yoga is great in this regard. Sometimes it’s a quick mountain pose to forward bend or it’s a full vinyasa session. Either way physical activity stirs the gumption within to face the wall of scribes.
- I find a song that matches the mood of the piece I’m attempting, and I listen to it. Over and over and over until it becomes white noise. It’s a hum to help me turn off the doubt. You know that ugly inner critic who can’t shut up? Yeah, me neither.
- Talk about it. Tell someone and let them hold you accountable for getting through. Set a writing challenge. Having someone know your plans keeps you grounded. Plus it’s great when they don’t rub it in if you have to start over. Keep creatives around you who let you come back to your craft naturally.
- Let yourself have fun. Write what you know. Learn what you don’t. Write to one reader. Impress them. Always make sure you wow yourself. Leave it all on the table. Accept that you’ll look at old pieces with a giant red marker. It’s a (w)rite of passage.
- Know that writing is your gift and it’s yours to foster. Do with it what you will. Just remember. We all have to start at the beginning.
- Breathe. Then type.
In case you don’t believe me — and let’s be real I’m still walking through the entrance of this forest — here are some quotes about writer’s block from the greats:
“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.’” — Maya Angelou
“As writer’s, we’re lucky. If we’re not productive, we can blame it on ‘writer’s block,’ an ailment that doesn’t seem to exist for other professions. For instance, shoe salesmen do not get ‘shoe salesmen block.’” — Neil Gaiman
“I don’t sit around waiting for passion to strike me. I keep working steadily, because I believe it is our privilege as humans to keep making things. Most of all, I keep working because I trust that creativity is always trying to find me, even when I have lost sight of it.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert
“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.” ― J.K. Rowling
There you have it. Our plight isn’t all that special. They made it. We can too.
Writers, what are we waiting for? Let’s say something.