There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
- Ernest Hemingway
If you are a writer you know the feeling. That inexpressible release of yourself onto a page as something empty becomes filled with art, your art. But I’m sure you also know the other feeling. The one we don’t like to talk about. It’s when the pit of your stomach fills with acid at the horrible tick tocking of the wall clock letting you know that you still haven’t written anything. ‘Ha… Ha… Ha…’ Your blank document laughs slowly and tortuously.
Honestly, it’s the stuff we have nightmares about. The horrible, dreaded disease called writer’s block. It can inexplicably manifest itself for hours or days or even sometimes months at a time. You lose your muse or you can’t think of anything worthy to say. You are powerless to slow the advancing cancer as your confidence winnows away to dust. And it is magnified times a thousand when you are a creative writer, because it makes you feel uninspiring.
I equate writers block like breaking up with your first great girlfriend or boyfriend because the symptoms are all the same. You lose your appetite for food. You obsess over what went wrong. You work out more than you have in months; which is great for your waist-line, but useless for your deadline. You get agitated at your inability to produce decent content. Oh, and you feel like total crap about yourself.
But I have also found that there are two misconceptions about writer’s block that are the root of all that anxiety.
1. Your writing doesn’t always have to be good.
Sure, you’re a word artist. You make a living, or at least really enjoy creating something that is unique and possesses quality and originality. But you know what? Sometimes, you just have to suck. Words on a page, even terrible ones, are better than no words. And you’d be surprised how many bad ideas birth amazing breakthroughs. So go ahead, stink it up! Make that paper wish it was on a roll of Charmin, and not in your printer feed. Crass, I know. But once you remove the stipulations for your creativity, you allow yourself the freedom to mentally wander – then who knows what will happen!
2. Inspiration is not inactive.
It doesn’t just walk into your office, all sultry and mystifying and whisper you into a creative frenzy. You don’t magically wake up with a writing hangover and 40 more pages on Saturday morning while you wonder… what the heck happened last night? If you are having trouble writing about something, then you need to get out there and find something worth saying. Be a little bit more journalistic and a little less introspective. Start asking the right questions to others around you and let them be your guide post. Get off your desk chair, and take a break to explore the possibilities. And if all else fails, you can always write about having writers block – at least it’s a start.
If you can understand that what you write doesn’t have to be perfect and that you are responsible for finding your inspiration, you move from being an inactive participant in a creative lifestyle, to the acting catalyst in a creative engine. You take the rocks out of your Virginia Woolf pockets and become an owner in your personality and creativity. Once you do that, once you claim authority over your gift or passion, you go from being the sacrifice, to making the sacrifice necessary to achieve your dreams.
So with no intentional offense offered to Hemingway, but his attitude didn’t really work out well for him in the end. If you want to live past 61, perhaps avoid alcohol addiction, and an eventual suicide – then I suggest you move from tortured creative, to talented creator. Don’t be the sacrifice, make it. If you change the way you think about writing, your writing will change on its own.
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