I don’t believe in writer's block.
At least not in the usual way people talk about it.
As someone who has been writing professionally for over 10 years, writer’s block is incredibly real, but it’s not how you imagine it.
When most people talk about writer’s block, they imagine sitting down with a fresh cup of coffee to a blank screen. They watch that cursor blink while they try and put together something to say in their mind. All the ideas coming to mind make them eye-roll as they grow more and more frustrated. Soon, that coffee that was at the brim of the cup is now empty and they sigh and say, “Ah, writer’s block!”
That’s rarely the case.
Writer’s block is really just an excuse for fear.
Being afraid to put yourself out there. Having your work critiqued. Realizing you’re not as good as you thought and you have years of practice to go before you’re any good.
Writer’s block is made worse by the internet.
If you pull up Facebook every time you hit a block, you’re damaging your art.
It’s too easy to end up in a deep YouTube binge. Believe me, I’ve been there. There have been years over the decade of writing where I got sucked into these bad habits and got to the end of the year with a long list of client work accomplished but none of my own. None of the art that truly matters to me.
When you’re stuck in another round of writer’s block, here’s what you need to do:
1. Know that discipline is essential.
One of the best ways to beat writer’s block is to simply make writing a habit.
Habits are hard to build. That’s why there’s so many books on them.
So yes, this step sounds simple, but it’s terribly hard to actually execute. To sit down at your screen and put words on a page every single day is a daunting task, but there is not one famous writer alive who doesn’t have this habit. (This is an amazing piece on the daily habits of writers: read it.)
Stephen King writes six pages a day. SIX. PAGES. It sounds like such a short amount of pages, but in reality that’s hard for most people. However, he knows this is his career and he takes it seriously.
No matter what creative medium you want to succeed in, there is NOTHING more important than making time for it every single day.
2. Stop thinking your work is so special.
The second barrier that gets in the way of writing is the idea that your work is somehow incredibly precious and is always going to be a masterpiece. If you set the bar that high, you’ll almost never get started.
That’s like saying you must win an Olympic gold medal every time you work out although you’ve never competed in a sport.
Now that I’m thinking about it, this is actually one of the biggest problems: The unwillingness to suck.
Your first round of anything will suck. You’ll be bad at it. You’ll be bad at it again when you lose the discipline. Although I’ve been writing for over 10 years, if I stop writing for months at a time, my writing is atrocious when I pick it up again.
Knowing that something won’t be great prevents most people from getting started in the first place.
If you truly want to make it as a creative, you must get past this barrier.
EMBRACE the suck instead of running away from it because that’s the only way you’ll get closer to your goal.
3. Do not allow yourself to stop until you’ve made something.
I don’t care if you have to pout and sit for 12 hours. If you really want to live your life as a creative, you are not allowed to leave your desk and you’re certainly not allowed to surf the internet while you “think”.
You’re going to lock yourself in your seat and stare at that blank page until you make something. I don’t care how long it takes. I don’t care how bad it is. You have to stick with it, which brings me to the final point...
4. Stay with it when it’s uncomfortable.
Don’t you dare pull up Facebook when you’re supposed to be creating.
I love the Internet. It’s a beautiful place where we can share ideas, make a living as a creative, meet new people, learn new things… but it will also destroy your creativity if you let it.
When you’re creating, there are moments where you’re trying to overcome the block in your head that says you suck, you can’t do this, that you should do something else…
(Side note: You should read The War of Art.)
Resistance is the reptilian part of your brain that doesn’t want you to do something that makes you uncomfortable. Our bodies and our mind like comfort. It likes to keep things the same.
But keeping things the same is not how you grow.
Comfort won’t make you an artist.
When you feel that discomfort, stay with it. Stay with it until something comes out of you, even if you have to drag it out of your soul.
Remember: writers block will only win if you let it.