As anyone who relies on inspiration to write knows, there are definite ups and downs. One day you have enough words to fill whole books, typing or writing until your fingers are sore. You laugh in the face of writer’s block. You feel talented, creative, and gifted.Other days, you have the opposite side of the coin: there is nothing. A blank page or white screen mocks you. You are stunned into silence by a complete and utter lack of anything interesting to say.Your words, once a raging river, have dried up and disappeared. You start to spiral downward. The self-doubt creeps in, and your critical inner voice grows louder and louder. You start to believe that you are not good enough, that you will never amount to anything, that you never really had any talent to begin with. Anything you put down gets erased, deleted, or crossed out. You feel unoriginal, uninspired. Haunted by memories of days when the words seemed to flow through your fingers without a thought nor care.
I once attended an online workshop that dealt with writer’s block. The main focus of the workshop was to look at writer’s block differently. We often assume that we are not the ones in control. We don’t believe that the words come from within us, but rather they are given to us by some outside force or muse. By reframing your ability to write as a craft, a skill you have honed and nurtured, and not a gift given to you by a capricious muse, you realize that you have control over your writer’s block. Once you have changed your mindset, you are better prepared to do the work to pull yourself out of your block and continue writing. Although I can’t say that the two mainpieces of advice I was given always work for me, I can save you the course fee and talk about them both here.
The instructor’s first piece of advice is to call it like it is. You have to acknowledge that writer’s block is a mental issue, and more importantly, that your brain is lying to you. Remember that you are talented. Know that your words haven’t gone anywhere, you are simply disconnected from them thanks to your mind. The more you stress yourself out about your block, the higher and thicker the walls become that separate you from your words. Knocking down those bricks will be all the harder. In order to find your way back to your words, you need to create a habit of writing. Create a scheduled time to write, daily if you can, and then stick with it. Sit in the same place and use the same materials. Creating a ritual around it will help erase mental blocks and put your brain into a muscle memory kind of mode. You will stop thinking about how hard it is to write; instead, you will simply sit down and write.
The other piece of advice goes hand in hand with the first: you need to write. It does not matter if you start by writing a grocery list or the lyrics to your favorite song. Recount a dream. Write a letter to a friend. It doesn’t matter what you write, just that you ARE writing. It does not have to be grammatically correct, nor does it have to be Pulitzer worthy. The act of writing something down is the important part. Eventually, you will find a subject matter that is inspiring, or a phrase that you are particularly enamored with. It will become the basis of your next work. Keep going, keep writing, and eventually the quality will improve and you will find something within those pages worth celebrating. You will be laughing in the face of writer’s block again, knowing you have the ability to keep it from ever darkening your doorway again.