I don’t really believe in writer’s block. I’ve been writing for publications for over 20 years now, and I’ve never met an editor who would nod sympathetically and pat you on the back if you said, “Sorry I can’t meet my deadline. I have writer’s block.” They’d be on to the next writer before you could wail, “My muse has abandoned me!”
But you have only to read “Sorry I haven’t posted lately…” a few dozen times before you realize writer’s block is very real to a lot of people, even (especially?) bloggers. Even … cough, cough … me. I hate to admit it. It doesn’t happen very often. And I never let it stop me completely. That’s because over the years I’ve developed some strategies for dealing with writer’s block. They are:
1. Start with the easy stuff. I am far more likely to freeze up at my keyboard when I’m writing, say, a query letter to a prestigious publication I would love to break into. The pressure! Every word is freighted with importance. Blog posts, on the other hand? That’s the fun part of my writing day. I find that if I start with that, or with a chatty email to a friend, it gets the words flowing and opens me up to attack the harder stuff. It’s the writers’ equivalent of eating dessert first.
2. Reread your own work. I’m not ashamed to admit that I often go through my blog archives and reread my old posts. Usually I think, “Wow, this is pretty good! I guess I CAN write, all present evidence to the contrary.” A quote from an interview with Joanne Harris, bestselling author of 13 novels including Chocolat, jumped out at me recently. She said, “If you enjoy your writing then it’s likely others will too.” It’s good to remind yourself of that on days when you’re not feeling it.
3. Refuel your tank. Or fill the well, if you will. Do whatever it takes to re-energize yourself for the writing project at hand. Usually that means stepping away from your desk. Take a walk, go to a museum, meet a friend for coffee. Whether or not trashy TV or chocolate is involved is your business.
4. Drink. You think I’m kidding. I’m not. When you’re all worked up about crafting the perfect opening to your essay and you can’t get past the first sentence, sometimes you need a glass of wine to loosen up and let go. Obviously, this is more advisable at, say, 7pm than 7am. And also if you don’t have small children in your care who need to be driven to swim lessons.
5. Push past it. Sit down and start writing anyway. Or, to put it another way, just show up. As Woody Allen once said, “80% of success in life is just showing up.” (Note: I had to Google this to find out who said it. And there’s disagreement over whether it’s 80% or 90%. So I spent another 10 min. or so Googling some more. Then I popped onto Twitter for a bit. This is what happens when *I* have writer’s block.) Sometimes what comes out is boring, repetitive drivel, but usually something halfway decent emerges eventually.
And remember: we’re our own worst critics. I will never forget the time I forced myself to finish a paper in grad school even though I had just broken up with my boyfriend who I totally thought was The One and I could barely see straight, my eyes were so blurred by the bitter tears of betrayal and shattered dreams. Yes, even in the midst of soul-crushing heartbreak I was a perfectionist who could never miss a deadline. And guess what? I got an A on that paper! Take that, loser ex-boyfriend!
Anyway, the moral of the story is, just say no to writer’s block. And promise me you will never, ever begin a blog post with, “Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile…”
So what’s YOUR best tip for writing when you don’t wanna?