Updated: May 14, 2019
By Michelle Toale-Burke
“Self-doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing, and desire, desire to do it. If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), ‘Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?’
Chances are you are.
The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”
The War of Art
Who among us hasn’t struggled with writer’s block at one time or another? If you can honestly say you haven’t, good luck because it’s coming sooner rather than later. Of course, there are as many reasons for writer’s block as there are writers. Below are a few of them and some suggestions that may help out when it comes a calling.
BEING A PERFECTIONIST. It’s fun to dream about becoming a best-selling author. Although to the perfectionists out there, it’s hard to shift from dreaming to doing. First drafts and perfect do not go together well. I think we’ve all heard the saying “First drafts are shit.” Well, writing shit at any point in time is tough for a perfectionist to take. If you find yourself in this category, try hooking up with a few people further along on the writing path. Pick people you trust and admire in order to receive some feedback, encouragement, and perhaps a nudge to put yourself and your work out there. Baby steps.
THE DAILY GRIND. Are you that writer that has been grinding away daily writing your heart out? Suddenly, the well has gone dry and you’ve got nothing left. This is where a little distance could do you some good. Get out and about, do some living, experience something new. Get out and talk to people and out of your own head for a while. Do something as simple as go to a coffee shop, book store, concert. Heck just get out there, let your brain rest and take in the moment.
GENRE. Perhaps you’ve written all you need to in a specific genre. Maybe it’s time to switch it up and investigate something different. So you’ve always written say Sci-Fi, that doesn’t mean you can’t try your hand at another genre or type of story. Just because you’ve always done things a certain way, doesn’t mean you have to continue down that road. Try taking a step back and ask yourself “Why am I doing this?” Maybe writing an entire novel is not a good first step. Perhaps you could try switching to short stories or an essay. Completing a short story could get the ball rolling again. Or just put away your current project and begin something new.
FEAR. The thought of being told your writing is horrible, or even just thinking that to yourself, can make the best writer freeze up with fear. No one really wants to be judged harshly, especially after writing your heart out, but we are all unique and have various life experiences to draw from. The world needs to hear from YOU. You are the only one that can tell your story, in your own way. Sure you may get many rejections, but it only takes one person to say yes. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
My hope is that a few of these suggestions may help to snap you out of your funk, if your in one. Full disclosure - fellow perfectionist here. Writing this article activated all my spidey senses of trust no one. But guess what? I took a chance, wrote a shit first draft, let a couple people look it over, revised it and just sent the thing in. What the heck, you only go around once. Here’s to us all defeating those demons that keep us from the page. Now I will end with another quote, because who doesn’t like quotes?
“Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It’s a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write.”
-Paul Rudnick, Playwright