Belief in yourself and your self-worth is the antidote to writer’s block.
Writer’s block is a frequently misunderstood and misused term. What we really should be calling it is ‘resistance.’ When you’re blocked, rather than being in a passive state, you’re avoiding writing. Consciously, you might want to write, but you cannot force yourself to do so. The words won’t come, or you won’t make the time, or you cannot believe in yourself as a writer, so you don’t let yourself try.
The truth is, you’re not lazy, you’re not procrastinating, you’re not incapable
(in spite of everything you’ve ever told yourself).
Instead, you are in the process of actively resisting writing.
The question is, why?
The hardest part about writing is getting started. To do that, you frequently have to jump over many self-imposed hurdles. You might think you lack ability; you might ask yourself, “Who would want to read anything I have to say?”; you might believe that the bad grades you got on your writing in school mean you cannot write, and shouldn’t even try. So many barriers exist to allowing yourself to create, it’s no wonder when you try to write something, nothing emerges. Or that if you’re already writing, you edit yourself mercilessly, never allowing yourself to enjoy your own process.
One of the most debilitating blocks stems from a relentless self-editor who is never satisfied, and is always hyper-critical. You might believe that since nothing you write is worthy of publication, you shouldn’t even bother ... or you believe that nothing you write will ever emulate “the greats,” like Hemingway, Shakespeare, or some other beloved author. Under those circumstances, no, of course you’re not going to write. It makes complete sense that you’ve stymied yourself. You cannot risk failure, when the stakes are so high.
- Step One in beginning to break this cycle is to let yourself off this self-imposed hook of attainment and perfection. No, you will never be Hemingway, and it’s a good thing, because if you know his life story, you know how he ended up. Acceptance of this one truth will free you to be you, an excellent place to begin to express yourself, instead of imitating someone else, or standing in their shadow.
- Step Two is to accept yourself as a writer. This one is very hard, and requires that you self-identify as a writer. There are so many blocks to this, you’re already probably convinced that you will never be a writer. For one thing, you don’t write. And you’re not neurotic, you have a good job and you pay your mortgage, you don’t drink to excess, you’ve never abandoned your children, your spouse, your dog, and you have no intention of committing suicide. So right there, you know you’re not really “author” material, since everyone knows writers are crazy, and, if not crazy, they are, putting it kindly, colorful.
- Step Three is to allow yourself to actually believe you have something worthwhile to say, that others will read. This can be the hardest step of all. Not everyone has belief in his or her writing ability plus sufficient belief in themselves to accomplish this step.
- Step Four is to write. To do this, you will have to suspend your inner critic and accept whatever it is that wants to emerge. Remember, it does not have to be polished, it does not have to make sense or have linear flow—but it must be allowed expression. Self-editing at this stage is inappropriate, as is the concern about how long it “should” be, whether it’s a short story or a novel. Don’t worry about whether you will ever get published. To begin with, simply allow the words to come out, whatever they are, and do not judge yourself, or them.
Contact me to discuss ways we can work together on your writing, as well as any personal issues and concerns you think might be preventing you from writing, or thinking of yourself as a writer.