The Secret to Beating Writer’s Block for Good

When I was writing my last novel, I met with an obstacle I hadn’t encountered with any of my previous books. It was a feeling of insufficiency that left me too petrified to write.

This is a serious problem that most writers will understand. Sometimes, maybe most of the time, what we call “writer’s block” is essentially just the fear of failure dressed up until we can’t recognize it away.

Photo Credit: horizontal.integration via Compfight cc (altered)

Photo Credit: horizontal.integration via Compfight cc (altered)

Of course, that’s something I’d dealt with before, it wasn’t entirely new–but it had never been as bad as it was then. In this case, the difference was that this novel in particular dealt with a lot of personal emotions, and a lot of story and heart was based on the spiritual experiences of a person I care very much about. I felt like that was a lot to live up to, and I began to be afraid I couldn’t pull it off.

Every writer deals with inspirational blocks like this, usually emotional. Oftentimes they’re a feeling of insufficiency, a fear of failure. Some resolve this problem by allowing themselves to write as badly as they need to. As long as they’re writing, right? And then they can make it all better in revision. Some people say this releases them and lets them write more freely. But I disagree with the whole idea for a lot of reasons.

My main problem with telling yourself you can write poorly is that it’s like saying you can build a house out of cardboard and then paint it to make it look like it’s brick. How much pride do you really have in your work if you’re willing do to a slipshod job and later make it look like you didn’t?

When writer’s block comes around writers have two choices: to write poorly and let themselves fail “for now,” or to write well. So I chose to well and I got through my block. I didn’t weasel my way around it. I forced myself straight through it.

I’m not saying it works 100% of the time, and even when I chose to “write well” I didn’t always. But just the choice to work my hardest, and to accept that it was okay that it was hard, freed me and gave me the strength to keep going. Honestly, some of my best work came out in moments like these. In the worst of times I was willing to do my best, and that meant I was really making the effort for my art.

 

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What about you? How do you deal with writer’s block? Are you in favor of the “write badly now, revise later” method, or do you use a method more like mine, or do you have a completely different method of your own? Please share!

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Categories: Writing Passion | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “The Secret to Beating Writer’s Block for Good

  1. I just stare, then pace, go back to my pen or keyboard, stare some more. If nothing comes I lie down and think. Thinking seems to be the same as trying too hard. More thoughts come to me, when I relax and do something else…..like work in the yard. Thoughts aren’t being forced……hopefully I get those down quickly. Thank you for allowing in me to express myself.

  2. Thanks for commenting, A.L. – those are good ways to get through a temporary lapse of creativity, like when there’s a hitch in the story you hadn’t foreseen and you need to figure out what happens next, but you’re having trouble thinking of anything. You also make a great point about relaxing yourself, letting the thoughts come naturally, and then getting them down as quickly as possible.

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