“Writer’s Block” is a mythical creature that gets blamed for everything from not starting projects or finishing projects, to not getting edits completed. It’s an excuse for another glass of wine or five more minutes (hours) on Pinterest.
Many pros will tell you that it doesn’t exist. It’s seen only by virgin writers who believe in it. Special Snowflakes with artistic temperaments and fae-touched vision.
Be that as it may, what’s real is resistance. “Resistance” is a psychological term, which, when used in therapy or analysis, implied that the client is resistant to change or resistant to confronting an issue. Normally, this also implies that there is a deeper issue which must be tackled to overcome what is now a road-block or plateau in therapy.
I am using it in a similar fashion. When an author claims writer’s block, what they’re really saying is more often “I’m tired,” “I’m bored,” “I’m scared,” “I’m frustrated,” “I’m depressed,” “I’m in trouble,” or even, “I don’t actually want to be a creative person, but I’ve been saying it so long that I’m ashamed to let go of it,” or “This is harder than I thought.”
And what they want is attention, tea and cookies, and someone to gossip with or bounce ideas off.
You may see yourself here. But now you know that there is a deeper reason that you aren’t writing; you need to find out what that is. You’re not a fae-touched Special Snowflake, you are a writer. You want to fix this, and be a professional.
It’s all well and good for pros to say “just do it,” but if you’re tired and cranky and depressed, then there’s something else that needs to be dealt with.
So how does you deal with those issues? If you’re tired, in a physical sense, take a fifteen minute nap or meditate for fifteen minutes, then sit down and write something. (Even if that something is “why naps are beautiful.”)
If you’re bored, try Write or Die. Set it to the automatic erase level and write for five minutes. If you stop typing, the program starts eating what you’ve written. Or challenge yourself by moseying over to Chuck Wendig‘s blog and checking out one of his challenges. Then, when you’ve done that, work on your main project again.
If you’re grieving, dealing with a major stressor, in the middle of a depressive spin, or even just have the flu, that’s okay. Deal with those problems. The writing will come back. Make yourself well. Or find a way to work around it. Drag a journal into the bed with you. Burrito on the couch for awhile. Call your therapist and talk it out. Use whatever coping techniques you need. Just believe that the writing will come back. Maybe not tonight or tomorrow, but some day. I’m going to get metaphysical for a moment: the writing is part of you and it cannot be destroyed — only changed by circumstances. Maybe you don’t write fluffy humor stories anymore, that’s fine. Change direction.
I went for nearly year without a new project or finishing an old one. For me this is a big deal. (I do three-day binge writing, and otherwise produce copious amounts of words, even if no one reads them.) It wasn’t until I discovered a physical issue and fixed it that anything got done. I still go through phases when I’m not feeling well where I don’t even answer email. It’s okay. It happens.
If you’ve decided that you don’t want to be a pro writer, that’s okay. I give you permission to walk away. Feel free to keep reading about writing and publishing. Just stop beating yourself up for not writing. Be a reader instead. If you keep focussing on something you now hate, you’ll never find the thing you love. And love is much better for you than hate. So try something else creative — painting, crafting, photography. Find something you love.
If you’re thinking “this is hard,” you’re right. Writing is hard work. Publishing can be gruelling. Dealing with editing or negative reviews or market indifference can leave you feeling like a newly shorn sheep. Suck it up, Buttercup. If this career is what you want, learn to cope.
Resistance is real. Don’t let it stop you. I believe in you.
Crossposted at The Art of Procrastination.