Writer’s Block: Facing the Beautiful Lie
Why Can’t You Write?
This isn’t about pushing through distractions or even getting shit done for a deadline. This is all about facing those huge blocks, very likely the ones you’ve been facing for months to years, that you can’t get your head around. The ones you’re not even aware you have because you think it’s the sound of the television in the other room or that you need to clean as to why you’re not writing.
So I was recently reading this book about good writing habits to increase word count—because even though I’m writing, I still read about writing to see if I can’t improve what I’m doing. I enjoy the craft of writing as much as the act of it. Even though I choose to write smut. XD I came across this concept that I see a lot, and every time I see it, I cringe and want to throw the computer across the room.
Make writing a habit. Do it every day, the same time, until it’s effortless. Set a time aside, a room aside, and be consistent.
Fuck off, please.
How many people go to the gym at the same exact time every day? How about eat that healthy meal they’re supposed to eat? Brush their teeth? Only watch one hour of tv? Clean the house? You’re ‘supposed to,’ so you’re going to, right? If you’re one of those people that find these sorts of things so easy to create a routine of, this post probably isn’t for you. But if you’re a human being that’s isn’t a machine that doesn’t want to take something creative like writing and put it in a perfectly timed box where you order yourself to ‘create,’ set your peepers here.
Because seriously, fuck routine. It’s boring. Why the hell do adults feel the need to take fun, amazing, life changing things and make them boring as fuck? Seriously, why? The gym, for instance. You could be out playing some sport with a group of people or hiking up a mountain looking at stuff but instead, you’re playing hamster on a treadmill because it’s organizable. I’m sick of these conformity ideas for things that have nothing to do with conformity. Yes, as a commercial writer, word count can be important, but if that’s all you’re focused on, you’re probably going to hate writing after a while because that’s not why you got into it in the first place.
Why can’t you just sit down to write because you ‘want to’ write, not because you ‘have to’ write? Why put the same rules on yourself as an annoying boss would when you could be creating a whole new flow to your life? Do you really need someone to tell you what to do just to write a damn book?
Maybe you actually don’t want to write.
Well… what? That can’t be it. Of course you want to write. You have that awesome story idea that’s been sitting in your notebook for years now. You want to write it, you just can’t ever find the time. Not finding the time doesn’t mean you don’t want to write… Does it? Hate to break it to you but if you’re trying to force yourself to write every day, you might not actually want to be writing. It doesn’t mean it’s not important to you, it just isn’t as important as you want it to be.
Let me put it to you this way. I want a clean house. I do. But I spend my day writing and I live with clothes on the floor and dishes piled in the sink (and on the stove and cutting board) because as much as I don’t like to live in a mess, I’d rather be writing than cleaning after my roommates. It’s what I want to do, and I end up doing it because it’s more important to me than some predefined expectation that I’m supposed to be able to do everything.
A normal day in my life involves around me waking up to take my meds, grabbing my laptop and writing in bed until the need to pee gets me out of the warmth of the blankets. I pull myself away for hunger, playing with the cats, and the occasional errand. 5 pm comes along, I say hi to the boyfriend that just came home from work and then go back to writing. I’ll hang out in the living room with my computer for a few hours with him with the tv on while I’m still just writing and then when he goes to bed around 1am I’ll stay up till 3-5 to continue writing. When I’m out doing things, I’m thinking about the story I’m writing, or looking at the world looking for ideas for new stories, and I jot all of it down in a little notepad. I’m am obsessed with building these stories, 24-7, and the other mundane stuff of life sort of fades from my mind.
No, you don’t have to do it this way to be a writer, but I’m illustrating the reality of my situation. I write because I love it, not because I have to. I eat, clean, pay bills and run errands because I have to, which is why I half-ass those tasks to get back to what I want to do. If you’re not writing, you might have bigger reasons than you haven’t made a ‘habit’ of it.
An Overwhelm Of Life
Stress kills creativity. It kills sex drive, kills your ability to have fun. In the above example of a day in my life you notice I’m not mentioning all the things I have to do or the world will end. You’ll also notice I don’t work. I’m disabled, live well below my meager means and don’t go out spending money I don’t have. I wasn’t always this way before my health problems but I adapted, and to be honest, I love my laid back life. I’m not freaking out about shit like I used to, trying to be some perfect employee/friend/daughter/girlfriend/sister all while putting my own needs last. One of those needs being my creative goals.
You probably don’t live a life similar to mine. More likely you’re busy and stressed out and then you want to write on top of it.
You go to work every day, you come home and you’re ‘supposed to’ clean the apartment, make yourself a cost effective healthy meal, and give your loved one your attention while paying the bills. Instead, you fall asleep on the couch with a bag of chips squished under your face while watching mind numbing television because you’re so fucking tired and the idea of adding a ‘time to write’ in there seems overwhelming as fuck. It’s the weekend. You told yourself you were going to write at least 5000 words on Saturday once you sat down. But there’s so many other things to do and god, 5000 words? That’s so much. You can barely write a damn sentence, you have to do 5000 words? But you told yourself, you PROMISED this week would be different! Why can’t you do anything right? Why can’t you just stick to one stupid thing and do it?
No, you’re not a lazy, procrastinating asshole that really wants to fail before you begin. You’re already demanding so much from yourself in your life, you can’t add writing on top of it in the same way. You’re just overwhelmed. Some people get past this overwhelm by focusing on routine—You’re not one of those people. If you were, your house would be immaculate, you’d never yell at your kids/pets/lover/television, and all your bills would be caught up because rainbows shine out of your ass and money rains from the sky. (If you are one of these people, when it rains could you stop by my apartment?)
But just because you’re busy, it doesn’t mean you can’t write. Yeah, you heard me. You might be overwhelmed in life but you still manage to go out with friends, or waste hours in front of the tv playing video games or hang out in your favorite bar. Why isn’t any of that time spent writing when all you seem to do is complain about not having the time?
So the first thing you need to figure out is what’s keeping you from writing. There can be a slew of reasons, so I’ll throw a few at you and none of them have anything to do with your busy ass life.
You think you suck at it.
You think that something creative is a waste of time verses something that promises to make you money.
Your loved one is so fucking excited you’re finally going to write a book and told everyone you know and now you can’t even bare to look at your computer screen because of all the pressure.
You’re afraid to fail.
Worse, you’re terrified you’re going to succeed.
There are so many people and things in your life that are depending on you and taking time out to write is selfish.
You’re afraid; not sure why but you know there’s a part of you inside that just can’t move forward.
You have some weird, preconceived ideas about the only way to succeed at writing and it includes it having to be difficult every time with inspiration striking only once a year and you need to make sure you’re not having fun or you don’t deserve to make money writing for a living.
You have a preconceived idea that if you succeed at one book you will be required to have to write all the time and be a writer and hang out with other writers and define yourself by this one thing.
Here’s the deal; when every part in your head is aligned, you get shit done. It just happens. You got your ass out of bed and ran to the bathroom this morning—Effortless. Maybe not, maybe you have a sprained ankle, or bum hip, or it was really cold and you didn’t want to move, but you still managed to get your butt moving because that pressing need won over everything else even if you ignored the alarm clock that rang the last half hour. You found a way. It’s the same with creative endeavors. It doesn’t matter the perceived hurdles; if you really want it and you get your head together, you will overcome everything that stands in your way. Why? Because the things that hold us back come from within. They do.
Then we spend a million words on explaining how it’s really something from outside us so we have no power to change it.
You’re Lying To Yourself
I have someone in my life with a million excuses as to why they can’t do something. I can tear each one apart and point out that they’re just throwing up reasons to hide from the root of the problem—But I can’t make them look at that problem and understand. They’re afraid. Facing that fear is far too uncomfortable for them, so they make lists as to why the world is stopping them and they don’t move forward because of it.
You might have a list. Physical, materialistic, fool-proof reasons as to why you can’t write your story. But the thing is, if you’re illiterate, blind or your hands don’t work, you can still talk into a tape recorder to get your ideas down. And if you can’t afford a computer, pencil and notebook are still damn inexpensive. And if you have way too much to do, you can still jot down a few paragraphs while sitting on the toilet because you found time to do that. Excuses aren’t lies to the world, they’re lies to yourself. They’re your way of defining your reality so you can’t have the things you want while allowing yourself to still want them.
Does that sound harsh? It’s not. It’s the safest thing your brain does for you. It is damn beautiful. We lie to protect ourselves from feeling uncomfortable–and I stress uncomfortable. People rarely die from the feelings of anxiety and stress when they finally face their fears. But the same way the brain builds simple things into huge problems, it also protects you from your delusions. Gotta love those beautiful coping skills.
Get Over Yourself
You need to face it. You need to acknowledge that it’s not your job, your family, your computer, your television that’s keeping you from writing, it’s you. You don’t need to know why at this point, you just need to know that you are the creator of your reality and in this reality, you have chosen not to pursue your writing goals. Even though you want to. Even though you’re kicking yourself every day wondering why you just can’t fucking do it. You made a choice, even a subconscious one, and the result was for you to not write.
There. You chose not to write. You did. Does it make you feel sick inside, or is it kind of relieving to finally look at it and see it for the truth it is? Maybe there was too much to do yesterday and you decided you didn’t want to exhaust yourself by staying up late writing. That was a choice you made, and hey, it wasn’t necessarily a bad decision. You have control in your writing endeavors because, as we’re seeing, you’ve come so far choosing to not write. What’s going to happen when you choose to write?
Do you feel a little sick now? Fuck, what is going to happen when you decide to start writing? Any of those excuses start popping up as to why you can’t? Any huge resistance or you’re suddenly really distracted by something that needs your attention this very second, or just a big “Who the fuck says I’m going to be writing?” moment? You’re reading right now, that doesn’t mean you have to start writing. Right?
So, if you’re like me, when I come to the realization that I’m in control of my life, I just naturally assume I can kick my reality’s ass to have it bend to my will. Blunt force trauma to the world, repeatedly, until I get what I want from life. This works when you’re aligned in your head and you’re not fighting yourself. This sometimes works when only a few things are resisting internally, and they’re not big. And when you’ve got huge mobs of voices inside saying, ‘Whoa, I don’t want to write!’ it doesn’t matter how much I whip myself into shape, nothing is going to get written because when I’m divided, I can’t do shit.
So you stripped your shell away that wants to blame the world for why you can’t write, but now you’re staring internally at this mess. This terribly uncomfortable mess. Ugh, feelings, vulnerability, failure, change, self-esteem—I know, it’s fucking gross in there sometimes. But you really want to write. You do. You have done everything, have shelled out money for books, researched to learn the perfect skills, and it doesn’t seem to matter how smart and motivated you are, you can’t get a fucking book out. You gotta face the uncomfortableness inside if you want to move forward.
Sorry. Maybe if you hadn’t put so much pressure on yourself to begin with. If you had been able to pretend that it was just writing for fun and you weren’t going to publish and no one was paying attention anyways, you wouldn’t have gotten to this point where you froze the fuck up and couldn’t move forward. But that’s way behind you now because you know you’re not going to be happy just writing that story. You found out you can make money, have a different life doing something you love, or really need to share whatever is going into that story you still can’t write. It’s too important and you can’t lie to yourself about it. You were going to get here eventually. And now you’re stuck. Uncomfortable. Looking inwards. Yuck.
I find that writing inwards can feel safer than feeling inwards. When I write, I can desensitize while organizing my thoughts. This may work for you. A way to channel the shit that’s holding you back without getting overwhelmed. And when you get a nice list of what’s fucking you up, you can go from there.
How? Well, it goes back to that getting over yourself thing and just listening to the truth. Maybe you’re afraid your life is going to change if you finally write that story. Okay. You’re afraid. The world is vast, you are small, and something might change beyond your ability to handle it. Alright.
And then you write.
You don’t need to solve your problems all the time. Usually, it’s about just hearing them out and realizing that even though they may be valid and feel real, they don’t need to define what you do next. Because you’re the one in control of your creative endeavors. You made choices, not all of them you’re proud of, and that’s how you’re going to continue. Yeah, you might have found something to be afraid of, but you can decide to deal with that problem once you finish the book, or make your first million, or have a stranger come up to you on the street and recognize you from your book flap. Probably won’t be happening tomorrow so you can now focus on just writing.
You Actually Don’t Want To Write
Maybe, underneath it all, you just realized you don’t want to do it. You liked having the idea, the dream, but you don’t want to put the work into it to make it real. That’s okay, too. It doesn’t make you a terrible person. I love painting, I’m good at painting and spent ten years perfecting my craft and because of it, I thought I ‘should’ have a career in it. Same with singing. I’m an amazing singer and I could make money easily. But I don’t want to and that’s okay. The world still spins and the gods didn’t strike me down.
If you find out that’s where you are with your writing, appreciate the fact that today you no longer have to beat yourself up about not reaching some predefined goal you built up in your head because for so long you refused to acknowledge that you didn’t want to do it. So what if you’re amazing at it? That doesn’t mean you’re obligated to do things you don’t want to do, especially when it takes your love of the art away. Now you can spend your time seeking out what you really want to do, or find ways to love what you’re doing now even more. Because, seriously, if you’re choosing to do something every day (which you are, you are the creator of your reality) make sure to fucking love what you do. This is the only life you’re living right now—Why hate it?
Who knows, maybe a year from now you might want to write that story finally. You won’t have to spend the year leading up to it hating yourself for not getting around to it like you were ‘supposed’ to. When you’re listening to yourself, loving what you do and not judging—strangers will judge you enough, thank you—life is damn beautiful. The easiest way to achieve this is to love all the gross uncomfortable things you stumble across when you start looking inwards. It’s tough, but life gets better and you get living.