If It’s Not Writer’s Block, What Is It?

WHAT IS GOING ON.

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It’s eight o’clock on a Friday night. You’ve blocked out this time specifically for writing, knowing it would be the one night this week you would have two to three free hours to get something done. You’re ready to go. You’ve set up your writing space at the kitchen table. You have blankets and tea and a Word document open on your laptop. It’s time to write.

Yet you just keep staring at that virtual page. You have no idea what to write. You want to. You need to, probably. Time isn’t the issue. Privacy isn’t a problem. This is the perfect time and place to write. You even feel motivated to start typing. You just can’t.

Many would call this writer’s block. I don’t, because it’s worse than a myth: it’s a lazy excuse for not getting anything done. There will come these moments when you’re trying as hard as you can to write, but nothing’s coming of it. What you have to realize in these moments is the amount of pressure you are putting on yourself. You’ve set yourself up to get all this work done; you’re ready to leap off that diving board into a pool of creativity. But you just end up standing up there on the edge, wondering if it’s actually worth diving headfirst into uncertainty.

It’s moments like these that stop far too many writers from ever meeting their full potential. Most of them don’t even know what’s happening to them. They just assume there’s something wrong – bad timing; lack of motivation; no “muse.” They take the advice to get up and clear your head for a few minutes as an excuse to abandon their work until they’re “inspired” again. What’s the problem there? Inspiration very rarely comes along when you’re waiting for it.

In these moments, you have to write anyway, even when it seems impossible. I struggled to start writing this blog post, but I didn’t quit. I told myself that if I could just write one sentence, even if it was terrible, I could get up, go get some more coffee and come back. My coffee mug is still empty. Once you start, stopping becomes the challenge.

These moments of mental struggle, of doubt, of fearing you’ll fail, these are normal. Every writer experiences them. The strongest ones write despite their weakest moments. This is going to happen to you. Treat these moments as opportunities, not excuses.

Just wait them out. Keep pushing through those nights you just don’t want to sit there and write something. It’s much harder to jump back in when you stop completely. Even if you have to write some really bad blog posts or chapters or essays. Even if you feel like you’re losing all your confidence or wasting precious time, nine times out of ten, if you just keep doing what you can to navigate the storm, it will pass. And you’ll emerge knowing you’ve tried the best you could – and compared to what you’ve already survived, what’s ahead might seem much more manageable.

Take that dive, even when you feel paralyzed. It’s very hard. Even I get frustrated with myself when I struggle to do something I wake up and do every single day. It doesn’t make sense half the time, but you sort of have to trick yourself into making it happen even when you’re terrified it won’t turn out right. You’re either going to fall flat or you’re going to nail that dive. Anything’s better than having to climb back down that ladder not having even tried at all.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-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.

2 thoughts on “If It’s Not Writer’s Block, What Is It?

  1. I love this. Great motivation to begin any project, despite the nerves. And in the end, the struggle only means you genuinely care about what you are trying to start. That realization alone should be the only reason you need to keep going.

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