The Writer’s Block

Do you get writer’s block? I do. Often. Honestly, I have it a little bit about this very post. It’s frustrating because I wanted to write it. I had ideas about writing it. But when I sat down to write it, nothing happened. So I checked my email instead. I looked for summer shoes at zappos.com. Then I wrote a sentence, erased it, and bought a sundress. It’s a problem, an expensive problem.

So what do I do about it? Well, for one thing I just put my wallet out in the car. Now in order to buy anything else I’d have to put my shoes on and go all the way out to the driveway. And it’s dark out there. And there might be a bear or something hanging out by the trash cans because we have bears in the neighborhood now. So I’m probably not going to do that. Because, honestly, I’d rather write this post than fight a bear.

“writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all”
– Charles Bukowski

Anyway, we were talking about writer’s block. There’s all kinds of conflicting advice about combating it. Some say you should get up and do something else for a while. I tried that once. I didn’t write another word for four years. Some say it’s better to stay at your desk. To keep working even if what you’re writing is awful.

“When I’m writing, I write.
And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says,
‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.'”

– Maya Angelou

I’m with Ms. Angelou on this one. Even when I know I have no chance of writing anything I won’t immediately want to delete, I still sit down at the desk. I still make myself type. Even when it’s really hard. Even when there’s something I’d like to watch on TV. When I lack the motivation to get there, these are things I tell myself:

1. You can’t call yourself a writer if you don’t write. If you’re not a writer, you’re a person with a lot of imaginary friends. You are too old for imaginary friends.

2. Robert Frost was right: the best way out is always through. Getting through takes effort.

3. There’s nothing more common than unrealized dreams and wasted talent. (see 1)

4. Everyone gets writer’s block from time to time. It’s a drag. But if you find a way to tip it over, you can stand on it.

5. TIVO is recording your show anyway.

Then I begin to work.  Sometimes I sit there with my fingers poised above the keys, waiting for inspiration. Sometimes I write for two hours and then delete the whole thing. The reward is eventually the words come back and the story gets moving again.

What do you do when you get writer’s block? Do you get up? Stay seated? How do you work through it? Leave a comment and let me know. Maybe we can help each other out.