Writer’s block is often described as a person finding it impossible to think of what to write. I have also heard it described as not knowing how to move forward with writing.
Because I write daily, either professionally in my paid employment, for my own blog, or for my mental health, I do not believe in writer’s block. I do not think it is impossible to think of what to write, or how to move forward with writing.
I know some of you disagree with me. I can hear you now.
But Dee – writer’s block is real! I sit and nothing comes out. I have nothing to say.
Really? You have nothing to say? How did you come up with that argument if you truly have nothing to say? Everyone has thoughts and ideas, even you. The thoughts and ideas popping up in your brain may not be the thoughts and ideas you WANT to write about, but you could still write about them just the same. Are you mad about having to write? Write about that anger! Do you have a pleasant view outside your window? Describe it for your reader. Or do an Internet search related to your topic and find some new fact to spark your brain. Call your best friend and relive a shared memory to help inspire you to write.
Write something. Just write. Look online for daily writing challenges or daily prompts if you need to. Write with intention, with a purpose in mind. And keep writing each day if you want to build a habit or reach a goal like a blog/dissertation/book/insert whatever you want to write here.
OK Dee – I can write about my surroundings or follow a writing prompt. But do you know how busy I am? I don’t have time to write each day.
Forgive me if I make myself sound hoity-toity with what I am about to say. If I can find time to write every day, ANYONE can find time. Let me explain before you click away.
Last year I did a time study because I was unhappy with my writing progress. I wanted to investigate how much time I spend each day on writing and how I might still incorporate hobbies I enjoy.
24 hours x 7 days = 168 hours in a week (keep this number in mind)
I manage 49 hours/week of my personal care (this number is temporarily up to 70 hours/week due to my recent injury). This includes time I spend in the shower, preparing and eating food, in the bathroom, etc. I work a minimum of 37.5 hours/week and spend a minimum of 5 hours/week commuting to and from my job. I am in bed for 8 hours/day or 56 hours/week. I will do the math for you: 142.5 hours of each week are accounted for.
This leaves me 25.5 hours of unobligated time – on a good week. Just a bit more than one complete day. When work obligations require me to work on the weekend or into the evening, I have even less. Yet, I am still able to find time each day to write because I NEED to write. It makes me feel like a whole person. It makes me feel fulfilled. Writing helps me process the world around me, and my place in it.
Plus, I have made writing a daily discipline and I am determined to keep my habit because I don’t know how to fail. It’s a character fault, this stubbornness of mine, and deserves its own post.
I find it helpful to block out time each day for writing. During the week, I write on my lunch break from my paid employment. Other friends get up early and write in the morning before their family requires their attention. You will need to determine what time works best for you. Once you designate that as your writing time, honor that commitment. Block it out in your calendar or appointment book. Diligently protect your writing time so you can maintain your writing discipline.
Join a writing group or find an accountability partner if you need encouragement with your daily habit. I have written before about the wonderful community and support I found at the My 500 Words Facebook group. To learn more about the My 500 Words daily writing challenge and group, click here.
Dee – I’m pretty sure I can find time each day to write about the world around me. But I’m afraid to write because then I’ll have to write about my past/childhood/former relationship/illness/insert scary topic here.
I agree – writing has the potential to be scary. Maybe you don’t really have difficulty coming up with words. You know you can write, but you are worried about facing what I call the “tough stuff.”
The “tough stuff” is the topic in our writing which causes anxiety and dread. I have more than one topic I consider “tough stuff” – my disability and loss of physical independence; and the illness and death of my sister are just two examples. Writing the “tough stuff” requires vulnerability and honesty when I often want to keep it all private from the world.
It is not easy to write the “tough stuff,” but if you want to be authentic, you have to write it. I am more prepared and have the skills to face the “tough stuff” because I practice writing every day. You CAN write the “tough stuff” if you are disciplined and diligent. Here’s one way to do it: use a timer.
The talented and inspiring Marita Golden wrote about this topic in an essay shared on Marion Roach Smith’s blog (Marion’s blog is a fantastic resource for writers but more on that in another post). In her essay, The Power of Ten Minutes, Ms. Golden explains how she used a timer to help conquer her fear of writing about difficult topics – race, prejudice, the color complex – and find her authentic voice. The line I found particularly encouraging has stuck with me since I read the essay.
The timer was set for ten minutes because I knew no matter how virulent the terror, I could write for ten minutes. – Marita Golden
Can you endure writing the “tough stuff” for ten minutes? Set a timer for ten minutes and you will see just how quickly those ten minutes fly. And isn’t it easier to face the struggle of something difficult knowing there is an end point? You aren’t writing your “tough stuff” for the entire morning/hour/lunch break/evening/insert your designated writing time here. It’s only for ten minutes.
I was so inspired by this idea of just ten minutes that I tried it last week. I moved my penguin kitchen timer from the oven to my computer desk, turned the dial to “10” and started typing. The DING! startled me and I realized I wasn’t ready to to stop. I was on a roll! I kept writing for another hour. Will I keep all those words? Probably not. But I finally tackled something which I had been avoiding because I gave myself permission to stop after ten minutes. I can face almost anything for ten minutes.
I was so inspired, I set the timer for 10 minutes when I had to start exercising with a more challenging exercise band. This technique works beyond writing!
Writer’s block isn’t real. It is an excuse used by undisciplined writers who are scared of writing the “tough stuff.” Daily dedication and diligence are required, whether or not you earn income from your writing. If you are writing with intention on a daily basis, even for just ten minutes, you CAN find the words and be successful.
What do you think? Do you believe in writer’s block? How do you beat it? Share your tips in the comments!