I’m a writer, so I’m obligated to write a post about writer’s block, an affliction that every writer loves to complain about but may not really exist except in our over/underactive imaginations. First off, the reason I say writer’s block doesn’t really exist is that it really doesn’t. There is no giant roadblock to writing, no giant stop sign looming at the intersection of imagination and inspiration. No real obstacle. No broken fingers to keep us from gripping the keyboard or the pen.
Offer me money to write and a deadline and suddenly the imaginary affliction disappears. You don’t hear the words writer’s block in a newsroom. Journalists don’t seem to be affected. Ahh, you say, but they don’t use their imaginations. They are dealing with cold, hard facts. Well, what then of other creative professions? How come we never hear about painter’s block or musician’s block?
If it exists, a better name would be Lazy Writer Syndrome (LWS). We are procrastinators. We would rather write tomorrow. It’s hard work. No one ever tells you about the long, lonely hours, days, months, years spent writing, rewriting, editing and revising. I don’t suffer from writer’s block. I suffer from LWS. I want to be free. I want to do the dishes, fold the laundry, go for a run in the rain, do anything but sit down and tap out a story.
But then again, there’s also another type of writer’s block, one that I do think is kind of legit. It’s the I want to write about something painful, but I’m suppressing it writer’s block: Painful Writing Syndrome (PWS). The kind where your inner editor says hell no, I’m not writing that. That hurts, leave it alone. Strangely enough these stories have a way of getting in the way of the stuff you do want to write. So I guess there are times when your writer’s brain does get kind of snarled.
So how do you unsnarl it? When it comes to PWS, write other stuff, journal or write bad poetry, just get your fingers moving. Don’t fight it. Try to be brave. Remember writing can be cathartic.
Here are a few things I have found useful for dealing with Lazy Writer’s Syndrome.
Give yourself a deadline. Joining a critique group helps because you have dates when your pages are due. I’m part of an excellent group, Writers of the Gangway. They’ve never threatened to beat me or anything, but these writers keep me accountable.
Write socially. Get out of the house and write at a coffee shop. Write with friends, or join a writer’s group that just gets together and writes. I attend Just Write Meetups in Chicago and I have excellent writing buddies.
If you must procrastinate, go for a walk: Apparently it can make you more creative. I read about a 2014 Stanford study that said that. I’m not making it up. Think about your characters and carry a notepad in case inspiration strikes.
Never go anywhere without a pen and paper. It’s just generally good advice.
They say it helps to develop a writing routine. But I say don’t be afraid to break it. To be honest, I don’t really have a routine. I write when inspiration strikes, which is often. It comes down to this: If you feel like writing, write. Seems obvious enough but it’s not always easy. You might be in the middle of making dinner or entertaining houseguests. You have a life. But allow yourself to write when you want to write, rather than forcing yourself to write when you don’t want to.