Some call it writer’s block. I call it Not Wanting to Adult Syndrome.
Sixty full minutes of frustration. Distraction. Mentally kicking myself, trying to force words forth when I knew that was a bad idea. Wondering if I should wait until later, or skip a day. Trying not to feel guilty for even thinking about giving up.
This happens to me, and I’m sure many other bloggers and/or writers in general, more often than is easy to admit. Many times, we just give up. Especially when things are already busy enough, and it doesn’t seem like we can afford the extra time it will take to come up with something “good enough” to publish.
Here’s the thing. I used to believe what you still might – that you should never force yourself to write. That it’s not worth sacrificing the quality of the content you’re trying to create. I used to believe that it was OK to walk away, to set things aside, to give yourself time. And in some cases, that still holds true. But I no longer believe not writing when you “can’t” is the best advice. At least for me.
Today was an experiment of sorts. I thought about getting up and doing something else – technically, I did go get a Snicker’s bar from the kitchen and feed my cat and scroll through Facebook for longer than I want to disclose here. All for the purpose of trying to come up with something to write about, however. I gave myself an hour. If I hadn’t started writing by noon, I needed to come up with something on the spot and make it work. No exceptions.
This does not work for every writer or for every type of writing. I take this blog as seriously as I need to – I care about quality and giving you what you need. But if there’s a day I’m really struggling, I’m OK with spontaneity. I wanted to see if I could do it, if I could force myself to write when I really didn’t want to. So many people say you’re not supposed to do that. Here’s why I disagree.
Two words: freelance writing.
If the past 10 months have taught me anything, it’s that “I don’t feel like it” doesn’t make up for the fact that if your work doesn’t get done, your client will ask not to work with you anymore. And/or you won’t get paid. Which, in cases like mine, is disastrous.
Is it different for bloggers and people who just write on their own time? I suppose, in a way. There’s a little less pressure to make writing happen. Theoretically. But I’m not the kind of person who learns something at work and doesn’t turn around and apply it to other areas of my life. Honestly, weeks are long, and by the end of some of them, I don’t feel like writing at all. Not even blogging, which I do love very much. But the thing is, I still do it. Starting is hard. Pushing everything else out of my head so I can focus is hard. But that’s how aspiring writers create success for themselves. They give themselves deadlines, they suck it up and they write – whether conditions are favorable or not.
Next time you’re really struggling, here’s what I want you to do. Give yourself 10 minutes for other mindless chores. Come back and give yourself 10 minutes of brainstorming time. Spend the next 40 minutes coming up with ideas and attempting to create something out of them. If by the end of the hour you’re still stuck, just start writing. You will either find that within 30 minutes you are already a good portion of the way finished, or by the time that hour hits you will be ready to write something – anything – even if it’s not good. Even if it doesn’t have subheadings or great organization. Even if it’s not perfect.
You could use “writer’s block” as an excuse and not get any writing done. Or you could start writing something and realize it may not be the best thing you’ve ever written, but it’s something. You wrote something. You didn’t give up. That’s a huge accomplishment. You really can do this, after all.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.