Writer’s block doesn’t exist. You can always write something. Writer’s block usually occurs when you are either not committed to or afraid of what you are writing. The fear can come from a multitude of places: fear of success, fear of failure or fear of the topic. It may be too close to home or to controversial. Writer’s block is a problem for the undisciplined writer.
I try not to give into this. When I feel like I don’t know where to go in my writing I just write something else. Sometimes it is an email or an essay or a blog post. I try to avoid making lists as they don’t spur on my creative process. This doesn’t happen too often to me. My personal issue is not a block. Instead it is what my acting coach, Larry Moss, called the negative interject. You know, the little guy who stands on your shoulder and tells you that everything you are doing is lousy? When he shows up I take a break. It is usually several hours into writing that I start to second guess myself. Then I make lunch or tea or head to do some errands. I don’t like to give him too many chances to criticize me.
Here are some ways out that work no matter what you are writing.
- Write the first thing that comes into your head. I heard E.L. Doctorow speak one time and he told about sitting at his desk facing the wall wondering what to write and he wrote “the house was built in 1902. “ Because indeed that house had been built in 1902. The first line of that book became. “In 1902 Father built a house…” which is the opening of Ragtime. It was a huge success.
- My father, Louis L’Amour was always writing. He had ideas upon ideas of what to write but his suggestion was to write. “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.” And then see what happens. The key is to write a well thought out sentence, even something someone else has written and see where it leads you. Just remember to take it out of the final product.
- Try writing, “I can’t think of anything to write.” When I taught Creative Writing class I told my students I didn’t accept any excuse for not writing. I said, “Just write ‘I can’t write today.” And you will find yourself writing. The idea is to get the juices flowing
- Restate the question. Take the question you need to answer such as, “Why did the pilgrims come to the New World?” and write, “The pilgrims came to America for many reasons.”
- Move your body. This isn’t one that works for me but I noticed that the young men I taught found this very helpful. Just standing up for a minute and turning around or doing a few jumping jacks might help to change your state and your energy.
I would have given a passing grade to a student who wrote me an essay on why he couldn’t write an essay. Because, you see, he would have been writing. That is the point isn’t it? To write, always to write and see where it goes. You cannot edit or improve an empty page. You must first fill it and then see what type of grandeur it can become.