Dealing with Writer’s Block

Block (n): an obstacle to the normal progress or functioning of something.

What happens when you’re stuck with writer’s block? If you spend any time reading or listening to published authors give advice to aspiring authors, then you’ve encountered the phrase “just keep writing,” which to me translates to “every author should write even when they don’t feel like it.”

Even though I’ve repeatedly heard this advice, I have never understood it. It didn’t make sense to me that you should push on when you didn’t have anything to write. I have heard it compared to exercising a muscle in this way: If you don’t exercise your writing muscles, then they gradually decrease in strength. As a former athlete, the muscle analogy made sense to me. Sadly, I only understood it in the sport sense. I still did not understand it in the writing sense of the advice.

In my head, it didn’t compute that forcing yourself to put words on a page was going to help develop your style or help complete a project. It didn’t make sense to me simply because I could never get anywhere using that method. Whenever I struggled and tried to force myself to write, I stayed mired in my funk and couldn’t get much (if anything) onto the page.

This post is an example. I started attempting to write something last week… But I didn’t have an idea, and since I didn’t have an idea, I spent way too much time staring at my computer, wishing I had something to say.

Finally, I had the small thought to write about writer’s block, since I was struggling so much.  And that’s how this post came into being. I’ve spent a long time on it. I wasn’t sure how to explain my thoughts, but I decided to “exercise my muscles” and try anyways.

During this process, I thought about a line I read in Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and I finally understood why “just writing” actually made a little bit of sense.

“This wasn’t good, but it was something. Cath could always change it later. That was the beauty of stacking up words. They became cheaper the more you had of them. It would feel good to come back and cut this part out when she had worked her way to something new.

For me, writing will always be a struggle. Sometimes even when I have an idea, I can’t get my thoughts to translate to something I can write down. Sometimes my mind just has a block.

However, I’m beginning to understand that I can get around the block simply by writing something, even if it’s insignificant, because I can eventually work my way to something new. The more I write, the better I will become. Writing may never get truly easier, but I can become a better scribbler.

Maybe what I’m getting at here is that we have to struggle with something at one point or another. Sometimes, all we need to do is make an attempt. It won’t necessarily get easier, but we can become better humans in the meantime.

Here’s to you, friend. Do what you love.

Perfect (noun)

Perfect (n): having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; free from any flaw or defect in condition or quality; faultless.

Some days, I wish I was a unicorn. Not because I wish to be a four-legged creature with a horn in the middle of my forehead. Rather, my wish is to have the mythical perfection that the unicorn possesses.

I have a tendency to be a perfectionist. The problem with that tendency is that I can never be perfect.

I will never to be able to do all the tasks in a day that I aspire to accomplish.

I will never be faultless in any of my actions.

I will never know how to flawlessly communicate with other human beings.

I will never be perfect in anything I do, no matter how much I wish to be.

It’s simply not in the human capacity to be perfect, and I am most definitely human. But you know what I love about humans? They are perfectly imperfect. Often, a person’s flaws can lead to their greatest strengths.

For example, what I believe to be my biggest flaw is my reading and writing ability, or lack thereof. I am dyslexic, and that fact is inescapable. However, for some unknown reason, I have chosen to develop my reading and writing skill set.

A learning disability affects social ability as well, even if it’s only to a small degree. Sometimes, it takes me a long time to process what someone else has said to me in the midst of a conversation, and I stand there looking like a fool because I’m not sure what has been said until several seconds later. This happens embarrassingly often. Other times, I struggle with remembering what word I was planning on speaking next, and I stand there struggling silently with my mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water. However, for some equally unknown reason I have chosen to develop my communication skill set.

Strangely, because of my choices, reading, writing, and communication have become three of my greatest talents.

Have you ever read Percy Jackson? If you haven’t, then you’re missing out on a great piece of YA lit. If you have, then you may already know where I’m going with this. In the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the topic of fatal flaws is mentioned frequently. The following quote comes from The Titan’s Curse.

“The most dangerous flaws are those which are good in moderation.”

Ever since I read the series, I have taken this idea and dwelled on it until I developed my own understanding of this concept. I believe that our greatest strengths and abilities can also be our greatest struggles.

I struggle the most with the written word. The written word is also my greatest strength.

In the past, I have quested for perfection. Now, I am beginning to realize that my greatest imperfections lead to my greatest abilities. Because of my struggles with dyslexia, I developed my reading, writing, and social skills. Now, I consider those three things to be what I do best. Even though I’m not perfect.

I cannot be the mythical unicorn that is perfect. However, I can be me, and I can learn even through my imperfections. To me, that’s more beautiful.

Here’s to you, friend. Do what you love.

space (noun)

Space (n): the freedom and scope to live, think, and develop in a way that suits one.

When I looked up the various definitions for the word space, I was pleasantly surprised to find the definition above. I wasn’t expecting to find such a perfect description for my thoughts in a dictionary.

I’ve been struggling lately (and by lately I mean for months on end) to find physical space and headspace where I am so totally at ease that I can relax and create. It’s like I have a mental wall to protect myself from outside forces, which sadly also smothers my imagination. Seemingly, my mental defenses are on high alert and they will not let me vacate the safety bunker until the “all clear” signal has sounded.

For example, today I did everything I could to keep busy, so I could prevent my own self from sitting down and writing this post. I listened to my audio book, drank my coffee (slowly), paid bills, and checked on the laundry at least three times (knowing full well the clothes weren’t dry yet).

Even as I sit at my desk typing these words, I am fidgeting and my thoughts are telling me that this is terrible and I should just stop now before I end up posting this and then crying from embarrassment.

Creating is hard. Developing and growing a personal, unique voice is not safe. Critique and ridicule are terrifying but inevitable if the final product is placed where other humans can consume it.

As you’re reading these words, I am obsessively thinking about them and about your interpretation of them, hoping your reaction is positive.

You see, I am made to write, and my deepest wish is to write in a way that reaches others on a personal, positive level. I cannot do that if my readers don’t like what I write, so I struggle with the fear that I won’t be good enough. My mind repeats my fears internally in a self-destructive cycle.

That is why I am struggling with headspace. I want space to think and develop my writing voice. I cannot do this without turning off the depressive and critical thoughts.

Since my thoughts follow me wherever I go, then by default no space feels safe either. My internal criticisms seem to leak out and expand into whatever space I am filling at the time.

I am tired of it. I am tired of being scared of my biggest dreams and greatest calling. I am tired of being afraid of my own creative mind. I am tired of being at war with my own self – wanting so desperately to write, but being so terribly afraid of what I will create and how it will be received.

So, today I’m done. I am done letting my fear rule my life. Today is the day I start letting go. It will take time, but I am determined to make it happen. It may take months or years, but I vow now to be in this for the long haul.

I vow to fight my own demons.

I vow to share my creations – to let them, instead of the fear, inhabit the space in and around me.

In the future, it is my vow to write more and worry less.

And you, dear reader, are my witness to this vow.

And maybe, hopefully, you can make a vow of your own. I know I’m not the only one plagued by my own fears. Maybe it’s time you thought about what you’re afraid of doing. I’m not encouraging any rash decisions, but I am encouraging you to get to know your own mind and figure out how it thinks.

When the time comes, I encourage you to start fighting your own fears.

Here’s to you, friend. Do what you love.