This past week, I decided that it was finally time to revisit my NaNoWriMo project. I was feeling excited about the idea, and ready to do some editing with fresh eyes- and then I opened the word document, and immediately got smacked in the face by my old nemesis Writer’s Block.
So I did a little research on the topic of writer’s block, and I found some interesting perspectives. Here are a few of the quotes that most resonated with me, and why:
“When you face writer’s block, just lower your standards and keep going.”
— Sandra Tsing Loh
This pretty much addresses my main problem as a writer. I don’t like writing crap, even when I know I’ll be going back to edit later- I’d still prefer to just take my time and write the story well on the first pass. But I’ve slowly been accepting the idea that writing a crappy first draft is what I’m “supposed” to do, and it doesn’t mean I’m a bad writer just because what’s currently on the page is badly written.
“I tell my students there is such a thing as ‘writer’s block,’ and they should respect it. It’s blocked because it ought to be blocked, because you haven’t got it right now.”
— Toni Morrison
I also like the idea that a block just means it’s time to take a break. There’s no point forcing creativity if you;’re not feeling it, and especially when it’s just a personal project with no deadline. Inspiration comes when it comes, and all you can really do is wait for that to happen.
“You can’t think yourself out of a writing block; you have to write yourself out of a thinking block.”
— John Rogers
Most of the time, when I get stuck in my writing, it’s because I’m trying too hard to work through a problem I’ve spotted with the writing (even if the problem is just a lack of quality). I spend a lot of time thinking about how best to solve the problem, intending to start writing again once I’ve figured it out. But now I’m thinking that maybe just writing through the problem is the only way to figure it out.
“Writer’s block is a phony, made up BS excuse for not doing your work.”
— Jerry Seinfeld
Deep down, I really think this is true. No matter what I say about inspiration coming and going, I do think that if I wasn’t just a lazy POS, I’d have books upon books written by now.
“I’ve always said “Writer’s Block” is a myth. There is no such thing as writer’s block, only writers trying to force something that isn’t ready yet. Sometimes I don’t write for weeks. And then all of the sudden I’ll get a rush of inspiration and you can’t drag me away from my notebook. But I don’t stress out if I don’t hit some arbitrary word count each day or if I go a few days without writing something.”
— Julie Ann Dawson
I’m still making up my mind about this outlook. On the one hand, I think it’s valuable to recognize that you’re not going to get much writing done on a particular day and stop stressing yourself out about it. But on the other hand, I’ve also heard that the only way to cultivate the habits that actually lead to projects getting finished is to force yourself to write every day, even if you don’t feel that you have anything to say in that moment.
“I haven’t had writer’s block. I think it’s because my process involves writing very badly.”
— Jennifer Egan
This is basically just a rephrasing of the first quote, but I like that this frames it as part of the writing process rather than an aspect of writing style. It’s more reassurance that writing badly doesn’t mean I’m a bad writer- which is always something I need to hear.
“I don’t believe in writer’s block. Think about it — when you were blocked in college and had to write a paper, didn’t it always manage to fix itself the night before the paper was due? Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands.”
— Jodi Picoult
This rings true AF. Somehow I was able to finish my 50k words for NaNoWriMo, when I had a deadline and parameters. But left to my own devices, I never finish anything. Maybe the only thing I actually need to do to get over my particular flavor of writer’s block is to figure out how to impose a self-deadline? It’s certainly worth noting that I’ve never once missed a deadline for an assignment, only for my own personal projects. Could that be the obvious solution, staring me right in the face?
“Writer’s block is just another name for anxiety. People always have something else to say. It’s not like you ever run out of ideas. There’s just a filter in our brains where we decide what is “worthy” of being put down on paper, and when that filter gets too strong (due to high expectations or fear of being judged or whatever), few ideas will get through it. This happens to me at times and I just have to remind myself to chill out (or “not give a fuck” as it were), get over myself (or my ego) and trust the process to take care of everything.”
— Mark Manson
Sometimes I feel like I have writer’s block for no particular reason- it’s not that I’m worried about the quality of my writing, it’s just that as I look at the page I simply cannot think of any words to write. Historically, none of my fellow writer’s have identified with this feeling- and now I wonder if that was because I’ve been wrong the whole time about the origin of the feeling. Maybe it really is just another form of being afraid of writing badly, and the only solution is to just write badly anyway.
“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”
— Charles Bukowski
And with this quote, we’ve reached my justification for this week’s article. Yes, I’m just writing about writer’s block- but hey, that’s better than nothing!