I love buying new journals. I love finding pens that make writing feel smooth and powerful. I love cracking a notebook open to the very last page and wondering what words Future Me will write on it.
I hate flipping to the first page of that new book. I’m afraid of screwing it up from the get-go. The words that have been stirring through my head until this point vanish. I’m left with the daunting task of making the first mark in this otherwise perfect journal. Someone else can surely do a better job than I, but I bought the materials. It’s my job to not let them go to waste.
When faced with a new writing project, there’s usually fear, indecision and self-doubt. The barriers vary from writer-to-writer. The one thing we all have in common is this experience of transforming nothingness into something. Whether that something is meaningful or not is a different matter.
This blog was intended to be a 60-day commitment to elaborating on stand-out ideas and experiences in my day-to-day life. I stayed on track with daily posts for awhile and had some good momentum. By blog post #30 I fell off the boat. Writing and posting something new every single day isn’t as simple as it sounds. It takes time to develop the idea, put it to words, and edit it into a shareable piece.
The world is complex and full of interesting things to write about, especially if you’re living through the 2016 United States Presidential election season, but I’ve used up most topics I have strong feelings about. Now I’m left with ideas that require further research and exploration before writing anything of substance. I’m afraid of screwing up a perfectly good idea by choosing the wrong words, picking a sketchy perspective, or missing devastating typos.
Enter writer’s block…
Okay, I have a confession. I am a procrastinator. Most writers are. We sit down to write and suddenly the mess in our office or living room is too unbearable and we have to clean it right now! My college roommate could attest to the fact that our apartment was always most tidy right before exam week or a major essay due-date.
Why do writers procrastinate?
Fear of suck.
We don’t want to be terrible writers. We want to impress and inspire others with our words, yet there’s always the possibility that at least one reader will hate our style or perspective.
We’ve written some great things and don’t know how the next project could possibly measure up. Isn’t it easier to retire and always be considered a brilliant writer than to risk losing the claim to glory? When pride is holding you back, that’s when you are most in need of reentering the game. The best way to destroy pride is to be open to humiliation for the sake of putting something meaningful into the world.
Clutter and confusion.
Our minds buzz with ideas, some of which contradict one another. We want to add value to our reader’s life, but inspiring words don’t always come on command. You can concentrate on that blank page for as long as you’d like, but when the right idea or mood isn’t there, the effort is futile. Sometimes stream of conscious writing helps to process the concept. Other times you just need to spend more time mulling over what exactly they want to communicate.
Writing is the act of putting your unordered, private thoughts into comprehensive and sharable ideas. Once your words are out there, you’ve given your readers permission to interpret and judge your message however they’d like to. The writer has no control over how people receive and process their words. The writer is also giving people an opportunity to not care or even hate the expressed ideas. Writing is a vulnerable art. You can’t avoid putting some of yourself into the work because it’s coming straight from your head.
Writing is a vulnerable art. It’s hard to avoid putting yourself into the work. After all, the words are coming straight from your head. It’s your job to convey meaning to others in a logical, accurate and comprehensible way based on your understanding of the subject.
The art of writing is personal, and learning to accept criticism comes with growth and maturity. When we write articles that conflict with majority (or even strongly-held minority) opinions, the door is open for debate.
Not only are you giving people permission to disagree with you, but you are boldly serving as a representative for whatever belief, culture, social movement, etc. that you’re writing about. Your words have the power to shape how others view the groups of people who share your perspective. No pressure.
How to Overcome Writer’s Block
I have no idea what motivates you to write, so I can’t tell you how to defeat the dreaded intellectual plague that is writer’s block. However, I don’t think writer’s block is inherently bad. It gives us a reason to invest more time into our work before publishing it. When the inspiration takes longer than we’d like, it creates a healthy pressure for us to delve into the tension that’s causing the block in the first place. Reveling in the discomfort is a good starting place.
If you don’t have deadlines or accountability, you are more susceptible to forever avoiding that dreaded blank page. Pressure is a good thing for most writers. Having a definite timeframe creates a need to finish the project. While the stress of meeting deadlines can be overwhelming at times, it’s also incredibly helpful in this profession.
Writer’s block is horrible. It’s draining and humiliating. Don’t let it get the best of you. Refuse to give up on that project or task just because it doesn’t come right away. Figure out what makes you so passionate about writing in the first place, and lean into that inspiration.
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