Another month, another writing post about writer’s block. On my Twitter Feed the other day, there was a question posed to discuss with young writers about our methods of combating writer’s block. My friend Bryan Young – who is amazing and has written every day for the past two years (seriously, I hate you right now) – talked about making yourself write every day.
This. Yes, I've written every day for 2 years, but sometimes the words dribble from me like I'm a broken faucet. Other days it's a firehose https://t.co/YTnX8z7o7u
— Bryan Young (@swankmotron) July 6, 2017
I think there’s a kink in my hose, and I’ve yet to find it.
I say this as I have a manuscript open in front of me on my other screen. I’ve been staring at it for two hours. I don’t have a deadline – this is only book 2 of 5 in a series I’m writing and I want to get more in it before I start shopping it out. I have on my playlist that my muse response; I just added two songs to it because my muse was like “bitch, those are my songs add them”.
Sorry, the muse has a potty mouth. Much like his master!
It’s not just this manuscript. I open one I already have finished and just need to update to modernize the text and I can’t focus. I open a just started project and I can’t find that excitement I had just two weeks ago to play with it. Hell, the fact this blog post is probably more words that I’ve written in a week!
That’s when my brain points to this blog post and says “but look, at least you’re still writing!!!!”.
Am I, though? Do I get to count these words to my word count goal of the day/week/month? What about the online written RPG game that I am in – do those written dialogue and action cues count as writing since it’s technically a group story we’re creating for ourselves? What am I allowed to count? What level of “creativity” or “related to my writing career” is the guideline on counting words to determine if I am indeed eligible for the #amwriting hashtag victory on twitter?
And just who sets these arbitrary rules that we all strive to complete as a writer so that we don’t feel like a failure and beat ourselves up for not making those goals?
It’s the downward spiral of shame and guilt I think we’re all familiar with, and for me, when I recognize I’m on it, that’s when I say I have writer’s block. Not because my muse isn’t talking to me – he’s awake and adding another song to his 90 song playlist – but that something else in the back of my head is distracting me from getting his ADHD and my ADHD to focus at the same time to get his words onto my computer screen.
So what do I say to those with writer’s block, those who struggle with meeting the self-imposed writing standards that some unattributed figure on high put into the first author’s head about daily goals and the ‘you’re not a writer if you don’t write’ party line?
Put down the whip and forgive yourself. We’re not Alexander Hamilton, and we don’t need to write like we’re running out of time. We’re human beings, and we have real life that happens when we least expect it to – even when you’re one of the lucky few who get to write for a living. Sometimes to beat the writer’s block, it’s not about figuring out what’s wrong with the muse, or with you… but it’s figuring out the things in your life that are out of control elsewhere and are nibbling at the back of your subconscious, creating the kink in the hose that won’t let the juices flow.
Take a few minutes to call that bill collector and straighten out the account. Visit your mother in the hospital and make sure she is doing okay and knows you love her even if you can’t help her beat the disease that’s taking her away from you. Take a nap to catch up on the rest you’ve missed because you had a few long days at work and know Monday will be another one.
I watched an amazing movie on July 4th called “The Way” by Emilio Estevez (yes I’m a fan girl shut up). There was an amazing quote in it that I took away that sometimes we all need a reminder of: You don’t choose a life, dad. You live one. There’s also a writer in it, Jack from Ireland, who is suffering from writer’s block and well – I’m not going to spoil the story. Stream it on Netflix and see.
Anyway, the point of it is this: Don’t forget to live your life – it’s where your inspiration comes from. Don’t punish yourself for not writing for a day or two. Don’t beat yourself up for letting the stress and anxiety of life when it’s tilting in the wrong direction take your words from you. Adding more guilt to the scale is only going to make it harder on yourself to get back.
Instead, just remember to take a notebook with you while you live life. When inspiration hits, when you feel that hose start to trickle again, you grab a seat and get those words down. Bring it back to the computer and expand on it later. Try to do it again the next day, and the next while you get that life balance back and the hose will unkink on it’s own. Those words will come back, I promise.
You’re not a bad writer, or a failure, just because the bad days steal away your ability to focus the words. You’re just human, and the life you’re living at this very moment doesn’t give you the spoons to write. Don’t let this take the joy you find in writing from you. Don’t let it take away your plans for making a living at it. Just live your life, and if it’s the life of a writer, your path will bring you back to the words. It always does.
That’s just over 1K in a writer’s block rant. Did I write today? For me, this counts. #amwriting.