I was talking to my sister earlier today, who is also a writer.
Two writers in the family, go figure.
We got to talking about how to write when you’re feeling blocked and uninspired. Seeing as how she’s just starting out, she was a little surprised at what I had to say:
Writer’s block is bullshit.
Please, print that out, write it on a chalk board 1000 times, or do whatever you need to get that point lodged firmly in your head.
Whether you’re trying to finish an academic paper, are starting a blog post, or are trying to get started with your first book, writer’s block is not your problem. YOU are.
I know that’s not very nice of me to say. But I promise, if you put this advice into practice, you’ll see what it’s taken me years to learn – it’s not that we have nothing to write when we’re faced with filling that blank page – it’s that we’re too scared or too lazy.
Either we’re paranoid that what we write won’t be good enough, and will lead people to laugh at us and think we’re stupid, or we’re bored with the material and there’s not enough caffeine in the world to persuade us to sit down and start.
That’s it. Instead of DOING THE WORK, we tell people we’re stuck. That damn writer’s block – it gets the best of all of us, doesn’t it?
*cough* BULLSHIT *cough*
Still not with me? Check it out:
What do professional athletes do when they fail to score at crunch time?
You don’t hear about athlete’s block, right?
Exactly. Before they ever fail, they PRACTICE. Hell, after they fail, they STILL practice. Because every crappy shot they take is a step closer to nailing it when the pressure’s on.
This analogy can be applied to every professional industry out there. You don’t get better if you don’t practice, and when you practice, you’re bound to turn out some complete and utter crap from time to time.
So why is it when faced with writing, we can only produce something worth reading with the help of some invisible being that somehow magically helps us find the perfect words?
I don’t care what you’re writing – song lyrics, a graduate thesis, an article for the Huffington Post, or an advertisement for your business. You plant your behind in your chair and you write.
Don’t stop if you panic, thinking that no one will like what you write. I promise you’re not alone, and nearly every pro writer out there has experienced the same fear at some point.
Trust me on this. Before starting a new project, I have a private freak out moment more often than I care to admit. My mind likes to assault me with a laundry list of all the reasons I’ll fail spectacularly.
(On a side note, inner voices can be really big bitches. In my opinion, if they’re not encouraging you, you should tell them to shut the hell up.)
After a moment (that mentally can feel like a lifetime) of sheer terror, I man up, sit down, and get to writing. When I can’t think of anything to say, I’ll write down anything and everything that pops in my head. No joke. EVERYTHING.
I’ll even write down “I have no clue what to write blah blah why can’t I write maybe I need to read that thing again…” After awhile of rambling, my brain will latch on to some shiny thought and follow it somewhere – and that somewhere is usually exactly where I needed to go.
Here’s the thing you need to take away from all this – NO ONE SEES THE FIRST DRAFT UNLESS YOU SHARE IT.
In the first draft, you can look like a complete idiot, and the beauty is that YOU are the only person that will ever see that draft.
That’s how I operate in my own business. The first draft is for my eyes only, and clients only get something once I’ve been through it several times, tightening, polishing, and proofing.
You’ve got to give yourself the freedom to fuck it up. You’re only human after all – if it isn’t perfect the first time around, it’s still better than staring at a blank page, right?
Writer’s block is bullshit. Now you know. So get out there and create something spectacular.