I wrote myself into a corner a few weeks ago and I’m still trying to write my way out of it. This morning I found myself making excuses and feeling like I want to avoid my writing. Unacceptable. So, while driving myself to work, I gave myself a pep talk. It’s one that I give myself often and I’ve written about it before, so instead writing about it again, I’m going to leave this here for you.
Maybe one of you need it as much as I do.
I’m going to say something pretty controversial here: I don’t believe in writers block. And to take it one step further, I don’t believe in muses either. I actually find the idea of muses rather insulting. Attributing my time, hard work and meticulously crafted ideas to some mystical being seems ridiculous to me. Let’s be honest. There is no mystical, magical being out there sprinkling fairy dust to lift your writers block, people. We do the heavy lifting around here. Quite frankly, I think the idea of writer’s block is defeatist language that every writer needs to remove from their lexicon.
And you know I’m serious am about this because I just used all those big words.
So say it with me. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS WRITERS BLOCK. Writer’s block is simply fear or insecurity manifesting itself as inactivity.
Harsh, I know. But if you stepped back for a moment and examined the times you claimed to feel blocked in your writing you’ll discover that fear or insecurity is exactly where it originated.
So how do we fight against the fear and and get writing again?
I can’t tell you what will work for you, but I can tell you what works for me.
Use writing prompts.
We’ve all heard that the brain is a muscle and like any other part of the body, it requires exercise to remain fit and flexible. Writing prompts are a great way to get that done, but it’s all in how you approach it.
I tend to collect writing prompts. You can find a few of them on my Bookish and Writerly Things board on Pinterest, but I have a tendency to write down random ideas and collect snippets of conversation to use for this same purpose. I like to set a timer for fifteen or twenty minutes and just free write. I might develop a character or story idea during these sessions, but most often it’s just a tone or feeling that comes out of this writing. Sometimes they are usable, but the only thing I’m really trying to do is warm up my brain muscle for the heavy lifting I want to do later.
Reading is probably one of the most underrated tools of a writer. In fact, I have heard some murmurings that there are writers out there who don’t read…? I find this mind boggling. Reading gives you a chance to see how other authors put words together and create stories. It teaches you things you wouldn’t learn from writing. In my opinion, reading is one of the most important parts of the process. You must, read people. Read widely and voraciously. Read books outside of your comfort zone or genre. Read books on craft. Read the newspaper. Read, read, read. It’s fundamental, you know.
Get out and live life.
Look, I’m guilty of this. My house is cozy and it has all the things I like.
WHY WOULD I EVER GO OUTSIDE?
Sorry…had a mild panic attack, but yeah. I don’t like to go out. There are people out there and it usually requires pants and none of that sounds fun to me. But take my advice, put on the pants, pack up your laptop and maybe some lunch, and take your writing out into the wild. Take a hike in the woods with your dog or visit a neighboring small town famous for its farmer’s market and a specialty goat cheese. Meet strangers, join a running group and for godsakes, talk to someone other than the people in your head. When I return home after these little excursions I always feel inspired and ready to work. If you can’t manage a big outing, take a walk. Exercise has an amazing way of unlocking your potential.
Remember, people. There is no such thing as writer’s block. It’s simply fear and fear is a killer.