How To Navigate An Episode of Writer’s Block

This is a guest post from David Villalva of StoryandCraft.net 

I look like a rabid beast when I dance.

My legs twitch. Elbows fly. Hips don’t lie.

What’s crazy is that I actually feel the music. Unfortunately, my feeling translates into body movement that could hurt someone. Enter the dance floor at your own risk.

Also, I look stupid dancing. I hate looking stupid. So I don’t dance anymore. Never loved it. Don’t miss it.

But get this, my writing looks really stupid sometimes. Except I could never give it up. I’d miss it too much.

I love writing. I get to create new worlds and people. I love rearranging words, even punctuation. Yep, I’m a writing geek.

Maybe you’re a writing geek, too?

If that’s the case, why do we still get stuck with Writer’s Block?

Mind Games

If you’ve never experienced Writer’s Block, drop a comment below and tell me how your prevented it. I’m not kidding, I need your counsel.

For all others, you’re not alone when your creativity hits this road block.

Ever sat down for butt-in-chair time, fired up your computer and experienced any of this:

  • Just stared at a blank screen?
  • Wrote several sentences, but immediately deleted them all?
  • Suddenly decided to search the Internet for just one important thing?
  • Re-read previous writing, only to reinforce the Writer’s Block?

Writer’s Block deserves an immunization every few weeks. You can find plenty of cures out there with a quick Google search.

Common Cures:

There are many more out there and they contain great advice. But I suggest we need to know exactly what we’re curing before applying these prescriptions.

Why do we still get stuck when we have all these resources so quickly available? What does Writer’s Block stem from?

The Underlying Cause of Writer’s Block

For most people, Writer’s Block blossoms from one initial thing — Fear. This whole creative writing thing is a major head game.

The fear is there to try and keep you safe. It often manifests itself with these questions:

  • What if I can’t translate my ideas onto the page?
  • What if I get them onto the screen, but my writing looks like David’s dancing?
  • What if people read my creation, and hate it?
  • What if my newest stuff doesn’t live up to previous writing?
  • What if I can never write as good as published authors?

Our doubts lead us to lose confidence in our ability to produce new artwork. Most storytellers want their writing to connect with people. But if we can’t connect with our own writing, how will it ever connect with others?

Dance With the Fear

Seth Godin said we need to learn how to “dance with the fear.” That doesn’t mean you must accept that your writing will suck. I’m also not telling you to just get over it.

I’m encouraging you to embrace the fear, and dance with it. Even when it makes you look stupid. Or really stupid.

I stopped writing several times while creating this very article. I paused to ask myself:

  • Does anyone really care about the words I’m writing?
  • Am I the only one who feels this way?
  • Will I look stupid?

I believe the fear is confirmation that we’re creating something worth stressing about.

You know that creating something new allows it be judged someday. People may point at it. Call it names. Laugh at it. That’s scary as hell.

But assuming you love to create like I do, there’s really no other choice.

You must continue to create with the fear at your side, knowing that it wants you to stop. Because it knows your creation could become something some day.

Something people may point at with pride. Calling it artwork. Smiling with it.

That’s worth dancing for.

So acknowledge fears existence and continue to create when it gets in your head.

I recognize it’s easier to say and hear than actually process and implement. But it needs to be said and heard more often. I wish someone would have screamed it louder when I began my writing journey.

It Never Ends

Some people may interpret this approach as empowering our insecurities. I look at it as a coexistence.

The fear will likely remain no matter what so why not bear-hug it before it drop-kicks you in the Spacebars?

Moving forward, I’m hoping you know where to look first when Writer’s Block hits. Don’t look for an Internet free writing app or a better playlist. Look inside the Why?

The fear can’t be killed forever so I recommend you agree to (slow) dance with it. Then go through the fire by writing and creating something (even if it looks stupid).

Just know that I won’t call it stupid. Nope, not me. Because even I’m dancing again.

The next time you experience Writer’s Block, put on your protective dancing gear and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Am I not writing because of an unproductive fear-based thought?
  2. Am I committed to dancing with the fear and going through the fire?
  3. Can I continue by writing something today, even if it looks stupid?

Share With Us

How do you dance with your fears?

 About the Author: David Villalva supports aspiring, structured novelists by sharing visual   blueprints, case studies and articles. His eBook, The Storytelling Blueprint, illustrates the plot formula used in Bestselling novels. Get it for free at: http://storyandcraft.net/

Main image courtesy of Andrew Smith
6 replies
  1. Julie Young
    Julie Young says:

    When I have writers block I surround myself with the stuff I love the most. My grandson-always makes everything more clear. He shines a new light inside me. I love to take a brisk walk to clear out the cobwebs. While I walk I think about the wonderful things I have, a job, and income, a family(though not perfect) there my family. House work, always helps me get rid of writers block. I clean part-time, so by the time I dig into the pile of laundry or sink full of dishes I’m always ready to put my fingers to use on my keyboard.

    Reply
    • Jennifer Blanchard
      Jennifer Blanchard says:

      @Julie I’m a big fan of walking to “clear the cobwebs” myself. I call them creativity walks and I love to do them throughout the day, just to recharge.

      Reply
  2. Lara McGill
    Lara McGill says:

    There’s a couple things I do when I have something like writer’s block. Here we go…

    1. I make my font color the same color as my background. Then there’s nothing on the screen for me to see or judge.
    2. Sometimes I use dragon. Then I don’t have to see words on the screen, either.
    3. If I just can’t get myself motivated, I go to a book that I really love, and start typing a page randomly. In just a couple of minutes my own words start falling out of my fingers.

    Hope you find this useful/interesting/amusing! But mostly useful.

    Reply
    • Jennifer Blanchard
      Jennifer Blanchard says:

      @Lara wow–that’s a pretty cool take on it. I like the idea of using Dragon so you can speak the words and not see yourself writing them out. I feel like a lot of times when you speak it’s easier to get on a roll and keep rolling. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  3. Joel D Canfield
    Joel D Canfield says:

    Ah, David; when we had lunch, we should have chatted about dancing.

    I dance like an epileptic rhino. And my Best Beloved doesn’t dance at all. Zero.

    As for writer’s block, here’s the reason I’ve never been there: I started facing Fear and Resistance when I started training in public speaking over 40 years ago. So I’m not really an exception. Just came to the solution before I had the problem. When I started writing (music, at first, then nonfiction, now fiction and even poetry) I recognized that old bully Resistance and had some background in dealing with it.

    Your perceptions of both problem and potential solutions are spot on. Here’s one you should know well, but I don’t see mentioned: temporarily can the art and work on mechanics. Structure.

    I have days I don’t feel artistic, usually for health reasons I can’t ignore. But at my worst, I can still stack brick on brick, draw a straight line with a ruler. So on those days, I always have a backlog of mechanical things I can do for my art. Things I can do without fear, because they’re less creative, more structure-oriented. Not, of course, that I can come up with a single example right now, but then I haven’t had my coffee yet today. (A double espresso can be a powerful writing motivator as well, now that I think of it.)

    Reply
    • David Villalva
      David Villalva says:

      Great insight Joel. Structure can definitely drive the writing process. I kept coming back to what stops me from creating new works and it always ended up being fear on my side. But now you’ve sparked a great follow up article!

      Reply

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