Writer’s block. The self-imagined demon that stands between us and our next big project (or blog post apparently). The thing that reappears again and again, throughout our pen-fuelled lives. What is it? Why’s it there? How can we obliterate it for good?
Well, in all honestly, I have no solid answers. But, I’m going to talk about it anyway.
P.S. I used ‘we’ to make a personal post more inclusive; I’m dragging you all down in my melodrama – if I’m an incompetent writer, you are too. If you have the sheer confidence and discipline to never find your writerly mind blocked? Sorry, and congratulations.
I went to a “writing masterclass” recently, led by Lee Child, and someone asked him, How do you overcome writer’s block? To which he replied, writer’s block is utter bollocks (I’m paraphrasing, I don’t remember exactly how he debunked the phenomenon in a matter of seconds – but it was that swift). From his point of view, writer’s block is a case of the writer not being in the ‘right zone’ (that one is a direct quote), and can be solved relatively easily: by sitting free of distraction, reading through what you’ve written before, and just writing more… And I have to say, I agree with him.
To an extent.
I know writer’s block isn’t some mystical creature that comes down to pray on your ideas, feasting on your brain while you beg for one (just one) good story. A lot of the time it is just reluctance. Reluctance to come away from Twitter and/or Netflix, reluctance to sit blankly at a screen, reluctance to write something to fit the brief you’ve been given. And, like any task you don’t want to do, this can be fixed by just sitting down, disconnecting from wifi, and doing it. It genuinely is that simple (I’m doing it now).
But – and it’s a big one – that doesn’t help with the real monstrosity, the final boss-level, mutation of writer’s block: worrying. Worrying being the umbrella term I’ve decided to use for the clusterfuck that is anxiety, self-doubt, and basically everything else your brain tells you before you try to do something. That’s the real writer’s block, not a lacking “muse”, not a lack of discipline, just straight up self-sabotage.
That’s my ailment. My unmovable curse. The reason my blog had died and sat quietly under my mental ‘do not enter’ pile for months. And I’m positive its the main thing holding every other creative (that’s you guys) back, from doing whatever it is they’re doing.
It’s the thing that makes you doubt the success and reception of what you make, before you’ve even started to make it. Which, objectively, is absolutely nonsensical. And yet…
I don’t know how to deal with it. I don’t know how to stop telling myself that, I won’t be able to write this well enough, that I can’t. I don’t know how to listen to compliments without immediately dismissing them. I just have no idea how. But, we have to try right? If everyone paid complete attention to creative anxiety, the book, film, and art industry would just… end. Poof! Gone. No more enjoyment ever.
So, with the industry in mind (because thats what’s gonna pay the bills), we have to try and tackle those anxieties.
After predicting my future failure, I will eventually tell myself to just do it and see what happens. Granted, it never works the first time, but at some point something gets done. It might be utter shit (it probably will be). But, it’s something, and something is workable. Once that workable blob of somewhat coherent writing exists? You’re a writer! Officially! Words on the page is words on the page. And if you get to a point where you like it? Great. Then someone else will like it. That’s a fact; we aren’t that unique.
I know this isn’t ground-breaking information, but it’s all I’ve got to work with – that, and that your set up really helps (how did I ever write without a dog curled at my feet and a mug of tea in my hand?).
This is a post without a conclusion, sadly, because there’s no resolution yet. I haven’t discovered the secret to overcoming self-doubt, or insecurities, or lack of discipline. I haven’t got any profound advice to pass on. I’m still trying to “fix” it all myself (by desperately trying to maintain a schedule of productivity). Really, it’s just become a celebrate the small achievements type situation, which mostly relies on me saying fuck it and writing the most pointless chunk of text I can muster. This blog post is a prime example of that.
If I can squeeze just one self-indulgent moan, about why writing is hard out, of my cold, unenthused, blogger brain, then I might be able to actually let myself live a little.I might be able to post things I like, and frequently(!), without fretting so much that I just hit delete and never go back.
That’s the aim anyway – and it seems to be working. I’m learning to allow myself to enjoy doing the thing I’m most passionate about.
If you’ve made it this far, I hope you’ve found some comfort in the knowledge that I’m a writer than can’t write anything, without mentally telling myself to shut up fifty times beforehand. And, I hope it helps you to make the thing you’ve been too worried to make.