The Truth About Writer's Block
This is a guest post by Jessica Bayliss.
“It doesn’t matter how many words you wrote the day before … every day you start fresh again with the same blank page or that same blank screen.” —Lincoln Child
Hello, Wonderful Writers and Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a fun holiday season.
Are you ready for the new year? Have you solidified your goals? Done up your dream boards for everything 2019 will bring? Do you know what writing and revision projects you’re going to be working on? Yes? Hooray!
Or, are you feeling a little stuck?
Yeah, that is a thing too. And it can be worse when everyone else around you is feeling empowered and ready to go for the new year. Don’t worry; you’re not alone. (And if you’re among the empowered right now, yay! But keep reading, because this post might come in handy in the future.)
I, too, have been focusing on my goals and areas of personal and professional growth for 2019. I’m also working on the first revision of my current WIP. For this revision, I have some new scenes to draft, so it’s a mash-up right now. I am going to share something that is hard for me, but my goal with these posts is to not only share strategies for success, but to also be real and share my own struggles.
I’ve had a bit of a rough start to this revision. I hate to say it, but I am just now getting myself out of the dreaded W-word: writer’s block. (Shudder.)
I mean that, but I also mean what I’m going to say next: I DON’T ACTUALLY BELIEVE IN WRITER’S BLOCK.
How can that be?
That brings me to the topic of this post and the upcoming series I’ll be sharing over the coming months. So, welcome to Post 1 of my It’s a Writer Thing: Writer’s Block Series!
How can I write not only one blog post but an entire series on something that I’ve just struggled with but don’t actually believe in? I’ll explain that today.
My thinking on writers’ block is that it’s not its own entity, an actual real thing. I think it’s a SYMPTOM that we can experience from one of MANY things that can plague, not only writers, but anyone who is working toward a goal or just going about their day-to-day work. That’s what my series will focus on. I’m going to dismantle Writer’s Block into the different traps that can cause it, and I’ll share ACTION-ORIENTED tips for overcoming each one.
To get a bit more specific, I believe Writer’s Block, which I’ll define as inability to make progress on a WIP (and which I believe is the exact same thing that can happen to anyone who’s struggling to make progress in ANY area of work or life), comes from one or more of any number of basic challenges in MOTIVATION, CONFIDENCE, and/or CLARITY. These things all overlap a quite a bit, and when you’re struggling with one, chances are you’re struggling with more than one.
Today, I want to start with the basics.
CAUSE 1: Lack of Clarity on YOUR Why of Writing
This one is super simple, but it’s so easy to forget, especially when things get mucky (and I’m talking about the big 3 muck-generators here: Rejection, Comparison, and Impatience). Simple as it may be, connecting to the WHY of writing can be immensely helpful when we’re feeling stuck.
How, exactly, will this aid you in overcoming writer’s block?
When we’re feeling stuck, the emotions that go along with that are miserable, right? Anxiety, sadness, irritation. We’re mentally cloudy. We’re restless. It’s a terrible way to feel, and none of that is going to help us with our WIP. Those things are literally inspiration and creativity kryptonite.
Therefore, if we can reconnect with WHY we write, we can change our emotions. We can focus on one or more of our reasons and make those our focus during our next writing session. Instead of wallowing in the muck of I don’t know what I’m doing right now, we can bask in the glow of what brought us to writing to begin with. That creates an entirely new mental and emotional mindset.
Your Action Steps
So, your task, if you choose to accept it, is to go and make a list of ALL the reasons—big and small—you chose to be a writer. Then put this list somewhere you can review it often, maybe even every time you sit down to write. Or, this may be an exercise worth doing regularly, literally writing the list on a regular basis. Maybe every week or once a month or any time you feel stuck.
Today’s takeaway is that Writer’s Block isn’t one entity that plagues writers, it’s the symptom of one of many challenges to our MOTIVATION, CONFIDENCE, and/or CLARITY. Remember WHY you write; doing so will create a mental and affective mindset to combat the negative thoughts and emotions associated with being stuck. Starting your writing session from this positive mindset will aid productivity and reduce procrastination.
Stay tuned for my next post in this series when I’ll dig in a little deeper on emotions and how they can be our friend or foe on the writing journey.
And, as always, until next time, You can do it! You can write!
Check out Jessica’s other posts:
“Let’s Talk about Feedback”
“Seemingly Inconsequential Events”
“How Christopher Pike Saved Me From Drowning (Seriously)”
“Let’s Talk Some More About Feedback”
“Why Breaking into Publishing is Like Pac Man”
“Goals Vs. Outcomes”
“What Project Runway Taught Me about Being a Writer”
“The Many Faces of Critique Partners”
“My Process for Responding to Feedback”
“Harness The Power of Stimulus Control in your Writing”
“Turbo-Charge The Power of the Environment”
“It’s All About Control”
“Do Not Fear Rejection”
“Preparing for Pitch Wars”
“On Productivity and Finishing What You Started”
“On Plotters and Pantsers”
“Is THIS Why You Are Struggling to Finish that Book?”
“Why I Write”
“How I Write”
“Six Myths of Revision”
"Writer's Block: Part One"
"Writer's Block: Part Two"
Jessica Bayliss is an author of commercial fiction who loves nothing better than getting lost in a good story, whether in print or on film. When not busy with her latest fiction project, she can be found loving her friends and family—especially her husband, Eric—playing with one pesky Havanese, or trying to appease an ornery cockatiel, typically with a cup of coffee near at hand.