To get you motivated and ready for JuNoWriMo, here’s a post on how to avoid writer’s block by Kevin Kaiser of 1K True Fans. Hold these keys close to you and you’ll sail through June.
I’ve never met a prolific author who believed in the existence of writer’s block. Not one. And even if it does exist, some have told me, they simply choose not to participate in it.
I was shocked the first time an author said this to me. “Really?” I said. “You don’t believe in writer’s block? Surely every writer experiences a block at some point. It’s almost a rite of passage for all wordsmiths, a badge of honor that we can commiserate with your friends over a nice latte, right?”
Tell me, why is it that some authors are completely hamstrung by writer’s block while others seem unnaturally prolific and unhampered by the creative equivalent of the La Brea Tar Pits?
The difference is in the choices they make, not the traits they possess. It’s in the perceptions they have and how those perceptions shape their actions. I went on a fact finding search among some of the best writers I know and this is what I found.
Want to live a writer’s block-free life? Here’s all you need to know.
1. Realize that writer’s block is about fear.
Understand this point and you’ll discover that the dragon has no teeth. Think about all of those times when you stared at the blank page or screen, paralyzed. For years this happened to me. And, honestly, it still does sometimes. It’s the closest feeling I’ve ever had to a panic attack.
My revelation came when an author pointed out the cause: All of that stress stems from not knowing what comes next. We’re afraid of choosing the wrong word or writing a cardboard character or fretting over whether or not an Oxford comma is better. Or whether we really aren’t writers…at all. What if I’m a fraud.
Getting on with creativity starts with getting over fear. I’m not telling you it’s easy. It’s not. Far from it. But that’s the start of it.
2. Write when you’re uninspired.
Writing is like marriage in some ways. If you base your commitment to it on whether or not you feel like sticking it out, you won’t last very long. And the most important actions, the ones that have the most meaning and impact, are the ones you take when you least feel like it.
“I only write when I’m inspired, and I make sure I’m inspired every morning at 9 a.m.” -Peter DeVries
Ever noticed that no one has “worker’s block”? You can’t phone it in because you’re feeling uninspired. That would never last. It’s the same with writing. No one finds time to do it. They make time. No one who’s successful waits around for the muse to show up. They simply get started.
3. Get words on the page…even if they’re shitty at first.
Writers are notorious tinkerers. We like pristine words, pristine paragraphs, and pristine pages. I’ve spent hours sometimes tweaking sentences until they’d been completely ruined. We’re (many of us) perfectionists.
There’s a wonderful chapter in Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life entitled “Shitty First Drafts.” I found it on the web and it’s worth taking time to read. That essay singlehandedly freed me (mostly) from my obsession to get it right the first time. It’s too much pressure. I don’t have to and neither do you.
Let me take the pressure off you. You have permission to just get words on the page, even if what you’re putting down is shitty. No one cares. Play. Experiment. Just get words on the page.
I can’t imagine how many stories never saw the light of day because their creators got so hung up on perfection that they quit. I know there’s an idea graveyard full of my stuff, all because I wouldn’t just. Get. It. Down. You can wipe the page clean later, but first just it down.
Kevin Kaiser writes and dishes out professional creative wisdom at 1K True Fans. Check out his Facebook page here.
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5 Replies to “3 Keys to a Writer’s Block Free Life”
Great article, and some very good points. I read somewhere about a question to help you overcome fear: Will tomorrow-you be angry with today-you for not doing something out of fear? If you will regret tomorrow that you didn’t write today – then you’d better start writing.
By the way, it looks like the link to Anne Lamott’s chapter is broken. Is it the same text as this one: http://www.humnet.ucla.edu/humnet/english/wwwroot2/ta/hyperteach/pdfs/shitty.pdf?
My biggest problem isn’t inability to write, but (a) recognition of a specific issue in a piece, coupled with (b) imperfect grasp how to mend it. For example, I spent months recently knowing I had a serious pacing problem in a WIP, caused by worldbuilding effort where the pace needed action, at a place in the WIP that the action wouldn’t make sense without the worldbuilding. Last week I began in on the problem, which had seemed simply too daunting until I applied the seat of my pants to the seat by the keyboard.
It’s really that simple. (No, I wasn’t not-writing for months, I was writing parts that weren’t contiguous with my problem part. And now I get to stitch it together :-))