I can’t think of a single thing on this green earth that will make you lose your damn mind faster than a good case of writer’s block.
It is as painful as being punched in the face by karma. It is as profound as a broken bone. It is as pleasant as getting the air slapped out of your lungs.
It’s no fun at all, is what it is, and I’d love to give you some sort of fantastic spell that will make your fingers dance across the page and your eyes light up like slot machines, but there’s no easy way around writer’s block.
You’re going to have to write anyway.
I know it feels like you’re dancing on a broken leg, darlin’. You’re going to have to trust me.
There’s no king-hell pain like writer’s block.
The only way to get through it is. . . to write. And write. And write.
And it will be awful.
And you will not be happy.
And every sentence that pours through your fingers will be a gritty mess that grind that grit right into your palms.
Oh, you’re gonna hate it.
Do you know what I did to fix my writer’s block?
Only all the wrong things!
I met my deadlines, tapered down my freelance life, and, for the next five years, wandered down a labyrinth that starts with “Why, oh, why did this terrible thing happen to me?”
Why did it happen?
(Answer: I still couldn’t tell you.)
(Actual answer: If you’re digging around for a question you’re not writing. Write anyway.)
My grandfather kept honeybees for many years.
His hive produced smoky sweet mesquite honey, a honey so startling in its complexity and honest its flavor that I can taste it while I describe it to you.
I loved this honey, but good grief, I couldn’t stand bees. I’d had one bad encounter with a hive when I was small and that’s all it took.
In order for my grandfather and I to enjoy this honey we loved, my grandfather needed to maintain his hive.
But the bees had to work too.
In order for those bees to make honey, they needed to get out and pollinate the curled, tough mesquite trees spreading in every direction on the ranch like a gnarled dream of paradise.
To keep those bees and my family nice and happy, we needed me to chill out around these bees, who were just going about their business the way honeybees do if you don’t mess with ’em.
My grandfather wasn’t one to dismiss your fears—
but he wasn’t going to play into them either.
This is what he said to me, again and again and again until it stuck: “It won’t bother you if you don’t bother it.”
(Translation: Write anyway.)
I am not an expert on writer’s block.
I am merely a writer who has experienced block.
You can go to better experts than me. In fact, I hope you do. I did.
Writer and researcher Alice Weaver Flaherty wrote the fascinating memoir-cum-scientific exploration of writer’s block, The Midnight Disease, after her experience with block after the birth of her child.
I’ve read this book and other equally powerful books on this subject: Julia Cameron’s The Sound of Paper; Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird; Stephen King’s On Writing. But still, I did not write. Could not write.
(It’s good to read, but write anyway.)
Here’s what finally happened.
I couldn’t stand not writing and I couldn’t write.
My friend Phillip said, “Write anyway.”
It was awful. I complained.
He said, “Write anyway.”
I was scared. And I said so.
He said, “Write anyway.”
And one day I didn’t stop.
The next day it was awful, but I knew if I could do it one day, I could do it another day. So I did.
I kept writing. And writing. And writing.
Then I needed somewhere to put all that writing.
I started a blog where I post something every day.
I knew that it wouldn’t all be lollipops and miniature ponies.
Remember, I was working against deadlines for a decade before the block.
Even when you’re riding hot, there will be months where every sentence is like punching yourself in the face.
That’s when you draw on muscle memory, on sheer grit.
It may be terrible.
It may feel awful.
It may hurt like a kick.
But you do it, you hear me?