Writer’s Block? I Don’t Think So!

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 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 MinutesMs. 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!

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24 thoughts on “Writer’s Block? I Don’t Think So!

  1. I love the ten minute technique and have used it for exactly the same reason. The tough stuff is hard to face, no doubt about it. There have been many times when I have things I don’t want to write. I simply don’t want to–I’d rather read or cook or have a bath. I’m also not convinced I’m going to be a writer in the professional sense. No matter, when I decide to write, I do–and when I don’t decide to write, I don’t. It’s far more a decision point than a blockage point. Nice, direct post about whether you or the muse is in charge.

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  2. I agree with most of what you say – in fact I teach all this myself in my own workshops. However I wouldn’t use the word ‘blocked’ as a blanket term for ‘stuck’ or ‘procrastinating’ or ‘undisciplined.’. It’s probably true that many writers or aspiring writers say they’re blocked as an excuse. But I think it’s unfair to throw all writers who can’t get their writing done into this one sack. It’s unfair to assume that because you don’t have a problem with being blocked, everyone who does is just making excuses and can be unblocked with accountability, discipline etc. I’ve thought a lot about this and believe that it can be a form of performance anxiety. And this may be very real and very paralyzing and may indeed require professional help – from a therapist or coach. BTW I use the timer in my writing workshops. It never occurred to me to use it for my workout /physio (can never get started!) Will do. Thanks. 🙂

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    • I struggled with some of what you describe, and almost wrote some of the same. But as I was reading and doing research on what other say about writer’s block, the excuses and fear kept coming up more often. I agree performance anxiety is real. I didn’t share my writing publicly for years because I was worried I wouldn’t measure up. I took a course, joined some writing groups and gained some confidence because I forced myself to share. Good luck with your workout!

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  3. I am SOOO glad I popped over here this morning! Our blogs dovetail so nicely, and today we both wrote about INTENTION. LOVE IT! I, too, use a timer to motivate myself to push through a less palatable task, and also, I time myself during down time so I don’t end up WASTING too much time. It works both ways for me.

    This resonated with me: “Writer’s block isn’t real. It is an excuse used by undisciplined writers who are scared of writing the “tough stuff.”” I will admit to being undisciplined at times. The A-Z challenge has helped immensely with that. I’m seeing value in brief, reflective blog posts.

    Happy Blogging! Thanks for setting high the bar for us. We need to be reminded not to slack sometimes.

    The OTHER Denise

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  4. Love this. I couldn’t have read it at a better time! Writing for mental health is oft underestimated. I believe that writing for oneself can lead one down so many untrod paths.

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  5. The bit about writing the tough stuff was like an aha moment of “I was supposed to read this” I’ve actually been cautioned against being open about a recent depression diagnoses, but am in the process of collaborating on a guest blog post about that very thing. It is the tough stuff on multiple levels. Thank you for sharing what you have in this post.

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    • What an privilege to give you this moment today! Thank you for sharing it with me. My disability stories are sometimes difficult for me to share too. Keep taking on the tough stuff. 10 minutes at a time if need be. I have faith in you!

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  6. Like you I cannot imagine having writers block. As soon as a person recognises that no-one else has ever had his or her experience, s/he can write about what s/he do and think and see and feel and smell. Even as simple as having a shower – well there are stories to tell about that which can be interesting and unique. I guess everyone imagines this is known territory. However my experience around the world where hundreds of people have invented new contraptions for the shower so that I have not been able to work them out has made me think that whatever I write about at home despite its seeming simplicity and commoness, will be exotic to someone somewhere else.

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    • Yes – and the every day can be so interesting to someone who has never thought of something a certain way, or a different way, or at all! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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  7. I love this. I’ve never believed in writer’s block and tend to groan internally and say that. To me it’s like saying you have a block about exercise which we all know can be cured by a fat does of “just do it.” I’m going to have to share this post because you nailed this so well. YES, we actually do have time to fit these things into our lives if we stop making excuses.

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    • Thank you! My excuses for not exercising can, and probably should, be a post if their own. Let’s just say everyone is impressed I’ve been so diligent in my recovery PT. I’m at the pool twice a week at 8 AM! If that’s not impressive, I don’t have anything else! 🙂

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  8. I have for a long time said we make room to do what we want to do, including writing. The opposite of that is my problem: I don’t make time if I don’t want to do it, but I think your timer solution is the solution for this, whether it is talking to someone you don’t care for ( obviously, it would have to be an internal timer for this one!) to getting writing done for the day. Thank you for your thoughts and solutions on this.

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  9. Happy I stopped by today. Great post that provides a nice platform for conversation around a topic that I’ve seen floating around quite a bit at times. Thoroughly enjoyed it!

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  10. While working on my novel I often find myself typing, “and then what happened?” Beyond that, I also don’t believe in writer’s block. I have more to say than I can ever write down, whether it’s about that thing you think you cannot say or just a slice of life experience, or what Damcat did today. There is ALWAYS something to write about. Great post!

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