Advice regarding writer’s block from a writer’s blockhead.

A stack of notebooks

I made the mistake of reading advice about writing, about embarrassing pitfalls and newbie blunders, and worst of all, about who has talent and who doesn’t. I now have an enormous writer’s boulder and can’t even bear to write my name, let alone stomach anything else my pen might sully.

First, buyer beware. All I formally learned about writing came from writing research papers in university, so I’m not really qualified to give advice on this topic. If you’ve ever read an academic journal, then you know that these papers do not lend themselves to the development of a natural writing voice. What it does develop is a wooden, dry, stilted, awkward monotone, devoid of all personality and eloquence. Hell, those qualities are strongly discouraged in such papers. Use a single contraction and your career is over.

So I’m not a professional by any stretch of the imagination. You see, right there I used a cliché. That proves it. I just share the same dream as 99% of people on earth. I’m also someone who puts an insane amount of pressure on myself to perform. I think a lot of people do the same thing; we want too much too fast, we do side-by-side comparisons of our first attempted drafts with the masterpieces of the greatest authors, and then we give up.

From what I gather from every website and how-to book about writing, most people (if not all) have writer’s block at some point (or many points), especially new and aspiring writers. We often feel like failures before we’ve even begun. And we won’t consider ourselves “real writers” until we publish something that either has 1,000,000 views from our 1,000,000 followers, or greets us wearing a New York Times Bestseller badge when we walk into Barnes & Noble.

But I did have some thoughts that comfort me and help me keep going, and maybe they’ll help you, too.

I figured out that as soon as I have a pen in my hand and I write a single letter, or sit at the computer and press a single key, I am a writer, as long as I don’t stop. So for however long I can physically keep that up, I am a writer.

I find it difficult to refute that. Because how could someone say, if they come in and see me writing in one form or another, “you’re not a writer”?

I’m taken by surprise that they said that out loud to me; nevertheless, I reply, “but I am sitting here writing something.”

“But you aren’t writing anything important.”

“Is everything written by professional writers important?” I ask. My interlocutor pauses here for a moment. If he says yes, then he’s stating that everything that is published is important, and no one could seriously take that position with a straight face. But if he says no, then he admits that professional writers sometimes write unimportant things, and then he will have to admit that even if what I am writing is unimportant, that isn’t enough to separate me from so-called professional writers.

He ignores it. “Well, nothing you write has been published.”

I think for a second. “But aren’t published books unpublished manuscripts before they become published? And you just said the word “write” too!”

He tries to sidestep my question: “It doesn’t matter, because no one will ever read what you write anyway.”

“But there, you just said yet again that I write things. What do you call someone who writes things?”

“I call you an amateur!” Ha, he thinks he’s won!

“Amateur what?” I ask. “Amateur cook? Amateur baseball player? Amateur what?” See, I’ve set another trap for him… and he walks away, bored of this conversation.

But we defeated him with impeccable logic. And that’s all that matters.  

To speak practically: make sure that you at minimum freewrite every single day (this is not remotely original advice but it’s still good and necessary). I call this my diarrhea writing. You can’t get anything good out until you get rid of the bad. You can’t tell yourself that you’ll think hard in your head and then write it down later. Doesn’t work. You can’t refine stuff in your mind. You have to empty yourself out of all the shit and then you’ll discover a little nugget of gold you didn’t know was there, an insight or a funny idea. But you have to get it all out first. It could take pages and pages and pages of drivel and then all of a sudden something will pop into your head that makes the preceding efforts worth it.

So it’s all good. Even if only a couple of people read your work, so what? That’s still more that would see it than if you just stored it on your computer or in a notebook. When I was in college, I used to break my ass for hours writing research papers for professors and they were the only people that read them. And I mean hours, sitting in front of the computer screen all day until I was ready to vomit. (And I didn’t start my papers the day before, either, and neither should you!) And all for only one person (who probably skimmed it anyway).  So if I could do all that work for one person, I can write blog posts for two internet people, or even only one. (All of whom I am grateful for.) And if no one reads our stuff, that’s okay too, because we did it, and no imaginary naysayer can say we didn’t.

Oh, and by the way, don’t think you’ll “save your best stuff for later” when you’re more popular and people will see it.  A crowd of people aren’t going to gather and wait on your doorstep until you decide when there is enough of them for you to emerge and bestow your magnum opus upon them.

Just remember, don’t lift your pen or your fingers for as long as you can. If you give up, eventually you’ll spend more time hating yourself for giving up than hating yourself for being a crappy writer–and besides, all of us could have used that wasted time to become at least less-crappy writers. In the meantime, learn to make loving the process your prize.

Related post:

12 thoughts on “Advice regarding writer’s block from a writer’s blockhead.

  1. Freewriting every day is indeed a great habit to have, and I do it every day in the form of morning pages. Putting your best stuff out right now is also great advice. I enjoyed this read. Thanks for writing!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You write so well. I would say you are a writer. And all those papers you have written as part of MA and PHD.

    I think some people are just plain jealous and just put us down. But, we shouldn’t take it to heart. We gotta learn not to hear.

    You must know about the crappy first draft technique. It is method to take take the pressure of.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your comment. I didn’t quite make it to PhD but I sure wrote a lot of papers in my life! I do love the “crappy” first draft technique. It’s very freeing. “Learn not to hear” is a great way to put it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Hety, People are unwilling to label anyone a writer unless they’ve had recognised social success, but that validation doesn’t ultimately mean their work is any good. I suppose this article is also about self worth, and for what it’s worth – you are a writer, whether you believe it or not. Most people talk about writing, and never write a word, or finish a story. And yet here you are.

    Freewriting is not something Im really familiar with, although I have heard of stream of consciousness, which has led to many famous books being written or begun. So Im willing to let go and see what happens! The author Jeff Noon famously covers up his computer screen with a towel and writes blind, which is both hilarious and illuminating because he love to play with words.

    I enjoyed this post and agree we all need to stop comparing ourselves to successful writers, who make it all look so easy, and simply learn to enjoy the act of writing. Analyis is paralysis. I hardly believe my writing will lead to much, but it is something I enjoy doing, and that alone makes it more worthwhile than all the money and accolades in the world.

    Like

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your comment. You’re right that the world judges people on the finished product when often they don’t even know what went into the finished product! It looks so easy when you see it sitting there on a shelf or in an image on Amazon, but people don’t see the long battle against doubt, fear, even laziness that you fought. I finally adopted the “F it” attitude after years of talking myself out of trying anything new, and I’m a lot happier now for it.

      I see from your website you’re about to publish your debut novel–that’s great and so exciting! Obviously your writing is leading to something. My philosophy is that if one person reads it, it’s worth it; it’s like handing over something you personally wrote to a friend.

      Like

  4. I don’t struggle with writer’s block as much as with loss of motivation and laziness.

    However, now that I have kept up the habit of writing every day for the last two month or so, I’m gonna keep at it as long as I can. The fact I work on different things also helps, since it saves me from boredom.

    One thing I’ll say though. Don’t try to match the pace of someone like Stephen King. That guy has been writing like that for years, and you’ve just started. If you did that, you can expect to burn out shortly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s great that you write every day. I’ve finally developed that habit myself where it’s something I just need to do every day and feel worse if I don’t do it. I too have a lot of laziness. My therapist told me once that there is no such thing as lazy, that there’s a deeper reason why we don’t do something.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I suppose your therapist might have a point. In my case, it is usually thoughts like these: “Oh come on, I can do that later.” Or, “Nah, sleep is more important.”

        Of course, since at the time I was only writing fanfic, I didn’t worry about it much. now though, I’m writing something beyond a fanfic, this actually motivated me nicely.

        Again, working on different things always helps, write a fanfic chapter one day, write a blog post one day, write a review one day, and it keeps my thoughts fresh.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s