How To Combat Writer's Block
I've had writer's block for the last week, which is an accumulation of personal stuff, a busy schedule, uncertainty, and the fact that every time I turn on the news, I want to chew my fingers off and spit them out at the television. I didn't really want to write, which is actually what writer's block is, at the heart of it. Writer's block is just what happens when you don't want to write. Come on. It's a block that could only be built by you, your insecurities, and your hesitance, and it's best to examine why you built it in the first place before you go blaming it on circumstance. I used to think writer's block was this kind of precious frustration that all those who give their noble lives to the arts partake in---that my writing ability was sent from Sharon Stone's via the 1999 Albert Brooks film THE MUSE (also with Andie MacDowell!) and it something you had to water and nurture like a succulent. That is wrong. Everything you read about writing that is romanticized is mostly wrong. I promise. Most writers actively do not deserve more nurture, as they can be masters of self-care, but they do deserve pay per article with real money and exposure is not payment. That's my business-y rant, since I'm talking about writing. So.
In the sake of being honest and transparent, there are few more things about being a writer that I feel are important to note---it's a great job, it's a frustrating job, it's a thankless job, it's an overly thanked job, and you'll drive yourself absolutely crazy if you think it's a constant job. Whether it's you or somebody else putting pressure on you, you cannot be the kind of person who believes you need to write every thought you have down. Every thought you or a writer or anybody has is not always important, and you're better off not doing a flimsy thinkpiece about something like Beyoncé's pregnancy mere seconds after it hits your retinas. You need. To. Give yourself. Some TIME. Sure, your mind is always working--thinking of novel ideas and blog posts and little itty bitty vignettes that could be the part of a larger project you haven't thought of yet. But to actually put your nose to the grind every second, even when every part of you has nothing formed in your mind, can hurt you. It has hurt me. And then, in turn, it makes me feel too guilty when I can't put out content every fucking moment of the day. It makes me write content that isn't as good. And all of that doesn't hide the other thing I know about writing: if you stop for too long, you'll lose momentum to the point where that can hurt you, too.
So what to do, really?
Sometimes, it's just better to not write, but it has to be because you know why, and it has to be only for as long as you know it's good for you. "As long as you know it's good for you" means just that. You know when the break is too much better than I could ever tell you. But what I can tell you is when I have writer's block, it's because I'm tackling a bigger issue: I'm hesitant to write about something big and fuck it up. I'm frightened that what I want to say isn't good enough. I've got too many ideas to narrow them down and focus on one thing. I'm working stuff out. I'm fucking sad, or tired, or just worn out. But you have to acknowledge that you're refusing to do the work. That's not always bad, but remember: you'll never lose the ability to write. You do, however, lose the ability to want to write, and that happens quickly and more easily than you ever thought it could.
Writers, for all that they are, often forget how to hover above themselves and look at what they're doing in a logical manner. Do that, even if you're not a writer. Take a real look at yourself, how much you're churning out, and how much more or less you should be doing for yourself.
It was straight-up fear that made me write today, and I'm glad I did. I hovered above myself and saw fear and laziness and avoidance, and I decided to dive back in. Because once you're far enough away from it, you'll find yourself opening the computer up one day and thinking, "I felt better when I wasn't writing, and I don't know how to start that up again." That's what time does, that's what fear does, and that's what laziness does. It allows us to get into a place where we're more comfortable not doing. Despite the fact that I feel like I'm going through somewhat of a larger change in my writing and what interests me, I still need to do work. Despite the fact that I'm learning how and what to write to reflect that, and I'm also learning how to prioritize the things that I want to say vs the speed at which I feel like I should say them, I still need to write. So.
Writers aren't very used to being quiet. They think they need to do everything all of the time, to be on the pulse and get their specific voice out to the world. I'm barely at the precipice of calling myself a writer, by the way, but I'm also over not calling myself one. It's just what I do. I can't pretend all the time that writing is a precious thing that requires an obstacle course of published think pieces to get through. It's a job and it's my current job, and it's my passion and my heart and also my evil little demon that I sometimes want to step on. It can be all of those things at once. And I'm not used to being quiet, even for a second.
So I'm back now, after a week of not writing anything at all, and I'll tell you---when you open up and start to get to work again, even if you're not sure where you're headed---it feels better than doing nothing at all. But for those of you at a loss for where you are in the world, whether it be writer's block or something entirely different, here's what I'll tell you---treading water won't make you forget how to swim, but it can make you bored enough to give up and swim back to shore. Keep going forward.