That theory is that those who believe in writer’s block adamantly defend it, because if it doesn’t exist … then they don’t have anything on which to blame their lack of writing progress. At the same time, those who don’t believe in writer’s block prefer the idea that it doesn’t exist … because if it’s fake, then what separates them from the non-writing ‘writers’ is a matter of character.
But again, that’s just cynical, jaded me.
For the sake of this post, I don’t give a flying hoot whether or not you believe in writer’s block. What I want to know is what you believe about the act of being a writer.
You see, if you’re struggling with your writing, you may not have writer’s block at all. Maybe, you’re just judging yourself by the wrong standards. There are a lot of romanticized (and outright ridiculous) myths about what it’s like to be an author. And if you’re holding yourself to them, it’s no wonder your creativity is suffering!
These are just three of the limiting beliefs you might harbor.
1. Writing should be easy for me.
As Hemingway famously said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” While some scholars believe he meant it sarcastically, the literal interpretation implies that writing is a simple matter of sitting down and poetically spewing your thoughts — as natural and effortless as blood flowing through your veins.
The truth? Most days writing is not easy. In fact, it’s damn hard. Sure, you may get one or two golden moments of seamless eloquence, but don’t count on it. If writing is difficult for you, that doesn’t mean you’re blocked. It means you’re like 99.9% of your fellow authors.
The treatment? Write anyway. Eventually, it will get easier. Not easy, but easier.
2. Writing should be difficult for me.
The last word of that Hemingway quote is bleed. Because that’s what we have to do as writers, right? We have to toss and turn in restless fits, pull out our hair, rip out our guts. If you’re not slapping your soul onto the page, you’re not writing.
The truth? You can enjoy writing. You don’t have to play the struggling artist. You don’t have to bemoan your tortured creative soul. Just because you don’t feel like your writing is ‘gritty’ or ‘painful’ enough, that doesn’t mean you’re blocked. It means you’re not a cliche.
The treatment? Write anyway. Even if writing is — gasp — fun!
3. My writing should be good.
First off, this is just ridiculous. Literature is subjective. My favorite novel might be viewed as trashy dribble by another person. There is no 100% accurate and objective measure of ‘good.’ And if you’re just writing for passion or pleasure, ‘good’ doesn’t even matter so long as it is satisfying.
That being said, if you want to make a living with your writing, then yes, it needs to be ‘good’ in the eyes of several people. But you know what? You can take as long as you need to learn, rewrite, and edit your writing to ‘good’ status. Your first draft doesn’t have to be ‘good,’ and neither does your first novel, for that matter. I’m not advocating mediocrity. I’m simply saying: think long and hard about what ‘good’ means to you, then be kind to yourself and allow yourself to get there one step at a time.
The truth? Someone in the world will love your book. And someone else in the world will hate your book.
The treatment? Write anyway. Don’t worry about what others will think. Do your best, learn what you can, and always keep improving.
I won’t belabor you with more examples. More than likely, you know what myths or problems are holding you back. Often, we can identify them, but we quickly cast them under the “writer’s block” umbrella, thus making them a faceless enemy. Don’t do that. Drag your excuses into the light and look them straight in the eye. Approach them with a potent mix of logic, defiance, and humor. Most of the time, you’ll discover that it’s really just self-doubt lurking in a less personal costume.
But no matter what is dampening your creativity, there’s only one way to move past it. Prove your excuses wrong and write anyway.
What beliefs about writing or writers make you doubt yourself? What other problems keep you from doing your creative work? Share your tips for beating them or seek advice in the comments!