Writer’s Block: The First Signs

This is the beginning of a social experiment I am conducting on myself, in the hopes of getting to the roots of the elusive experience of Writer’s Block, also known by many other names. For creatives, when something stands in the way of feeling passionate about our art, engaged, or productive, we feel lost.

I started this on a whim, with no calendar or plan– plus a litany of things to be taken care of. I have every excuse in the book not to write that book. They say write what you know, and I know what it’s like to be creatively stuck in the muck.

Each post will be added to, refreshed with new ideas and content as the process evolves. Be prepared for the swan dive I’m taking into the unknown, flaws and failures for all to see. In fact, I’ll do my best to use them to my advantage.

Ideally, these failures will guide me, teach me, and refine my work as a whole.

Worst case scenario first, this goes nowhere and I manage to learn nothing from it. Best case scenario, that does not happen and I bring something new to a topic that isn’t so new. In this scenario, I win, and Writer’s Block has failed to silence me.

I’ll admit, I can’t say all is miraculously changed since my post two days ago. At least not yet. I did not start writing or even increase my actual writing output at all, yet. What I can say is I’ve noticed at least a few reasons pop up in my mind about why I didn’t post. 

In this case, I quickly began to notice these little “excuses” not to write creep up, keeping me from taking the time to sit and write. I’ll collect these thoughts below as I warrior through this, so keep an eye out for updates. I get the sense that they will tell me a lot about what I’m up against.

PRIORITIES – I’m busy, tired, no time, and always seem to have conflicting responsibilities.
  • Working from home (while, for me, also being a stay at home parent of a young child) means higher risk for burnout for several reasons. Small bits of time to focus with endless interruptions and demands for your attention don’t nourish you for creative or intensive work.
  • Without boundaries and a healthy environment, your health and productivity will reflect this chaos. Because much of the writing process doesn’t pay like a typical 9-5, it can be hard to prioritize it. No matter what your circumstances are, making a comfortable space for yourself and seeking support from those around you can make all the difference.
RUMINATION – I spend time thinking about (or avoiding) what I want to write about.
  • This one I feel is less of an excuse, only because rumination is not always a bad thing. In this case, it helped me figure out what I wanted to write about today.
  • Overly concerned about having enough material, I would let my time in rumination carry on without action. I had lots of ideas, but needed to commit to one, and feel compelled to pursue it for some time.
  • A period of hiatus or rumination could easily become a stagnant place of procrastination, which I’ll explore a little more in a future post.
  • The next day, I sound myself thinking about what I wanted to write, not whether it was going to be ready today.
COMMITMENT / FEAR – I was afraid to start something I wasn’t sure would work out.
  • Making a commitment to posting every day seemed unrealistic for me at first, and I had no plan or structure, so some days it was easy for me to decide to “skip a day.” At first glance, it seemed like a block, another excuse, like I’d stalled out already. Strangely, I felt drawn back to it the next day, which is (for now) a great measure of success.
  • I’ve given myself permission to write with my flaws, and change things as they come along. This is a work-in-progress, from start to finish.
  • I’ve also given myself permission to write and publish as it feels right.
  • I began without expectations or rules, I absolutely threw them out the window for this project– planning to build as I go along in this process. This is a big one for me, as I like to know what I’m doing before I do it, which is a guaranteed false start. Writing takes practice.

These may be short take-aways, but they are enough for today. I’ll explore these ideas a little more. Actually, I find myself using this post to organize my thoughts and observations. Maybe it will help form the larger idea.

This is a work-in-progress, from start to finish— a way for me to conquer my own Writer’s Block. You will get to see that in action.

Surprisingly, I’m genuinely looking forward to whatever becomes of my next post. For now, I’m going to end my night with this, and I’ll leave you with a short Ted Talk that is worth the 15 minutes.

POST-2020 UPDATE:

There is no way around the fact that 2020 changed many trajectories, and a blog about not being able to blog became all but forgotten. Time warped, reality bent this way and that, and it changed my purpose and ways of writing.

Digital outlets don’t offer much genuine interaction, and my frustration with apparent censorship grew until I pulled the plug on all social media– likely for good. Every source on matters of succeeding as a writer in the Digital Age pointed toward “staying active” and contributing free content to a black hole of waste.

My spirit for writing didn’t diminish, but my hopes to find an engaging and thriving intellectual community online slowly suffocated as we saw our worlds rocked by chaos and mass dissociation.

Here we are, and my (in)ability to write came upon new challenges, uncovered much deeper concerns about putting thoughts and words out into the wide world of technology. My writing has turned back to the pen and paper, though I now realize how dependent I’d become on different digital platforms to organize and lay out my words eloquently…

A notebook full of scrawling half-thoughts was messier than I remembered, and making something of that mess seems even less likely. More importantly, I had lost my drive and curiosity to explore topics and share with others.

Reading over these dated blog posts shows how deep and varied the obstacles actually are to writing and other creative endeavors. For what it’s worth, I no longer believe in what I once considered “Writer’s Block,” I understand that there are simply a lot more reasons not to write than there are to keep at it.

Without a very serious commitment and unwavering sense of purpose, it’s dead in the water.

This is my current “block.” Lacking an audience, purpose, and platform… it doesn’t matter what my word count is on any given day, nor the amount of time I sit scribbling on a page no one may ever read. Even this blog feels trapped by the blinking cursor, and I don’t imagine my words here will change the course of anything.

The writing is for me more than ever before, and the pursuit continues to evolve as my purpose is reevaluated.

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