This is an old post I wrote for my personal blog several years ago, and I’ve done some editing on it (cutting out some dead wood). I’m mostly past these issues in it now (though the dread of being incapable of writing still haunts me).
My writer’s block is like a phobia. Some days just opening a .doc seems impossible. I’ll do anything not to. Play online. Pay bills. Vacuum. Go out with the kids. Watch a movie. Get obsessed with Lost minutiae. Plan a holiday. Fret over the future. Search for Firefly screencaps. Re-read The Lord of the Rings for the umpteenth time. Water the plants. You get the picture. And so it goes, month after month.
Can you even call it writer’s block when you feel like you haven’t managed to finish writing anything in years? Most days I even feel iffy on whether I should/could/can call myself a writer anymore. And yes, once upon a time I was a writer. At least I wrote some stuff that was published, reviewed and even read (!) by some. All of it published in Sweden, in Swedish.
Nowadays I rarely tell people that I’m a writer, or that I used to write “professionally”. Somehow it seems conceited to call yourself a writer when you haven’t actually been published in years. Maybe I’m just being silly. Or maybe I’m ashamed of not having the drive or focus or time or guts to get myself published in so long. That’s part of it.
There’s also this: Part of me thinks (fears) that I’m just lazy. Or worse: incompetent. Can I write? Should I write? Why should I write?
Writer’s block is a bitch.
So what the heck am I doing about it? Well, these days I’m taking writing classes. Not fiction writing but technical writing. And to my surprise I’ve found I like a lot of it. The structure, the style guides, the guidelines… it’s kind of soothing. And fun. Even process analysis can be fun! And don’t even get me started on instructions. No really. Really really. I mean it.
This is my resolution: Write every day. On that novel. Or the other one. Or some poetry. One or the other. Something. Hear me, brain? Hear me, fingers on the keyboard? Just do it. If there is something you’re pretty good at and that you enjoy, then why not do it every day if you can, even if it’s just for half an hour?
But there’s that writer’s block again. Off to bake some bread. Write a shopping list. Do laundry. Go to the library. Do the gardening. Clean my desk. Make the beds. But hey, remember how much fun it was to actually get so into the story that it rarely left your thoughts? Yeah, I do remember. I want to do that again.
For more recent comments on my past experience with writer’s block, read the interview with me at Lisette Brodey’s Writers’ Chateau: Chat With Maria Haskins, or the interview with me at Helle Gade’s website: Meet Author Maria Haskins.
Things that have helped me get past my writer’s block:
- Taking writing courses, even though it was technical writing
- Reading a lot
- Blogging – writing about things I know, things I like, things I don’t like… just writing, and allowing it to be imperfect
- Trying to edit and judge and work on what I manage to write, rather than question whether I should / can write at all.
- Starting small, like focusing on poetry and short stories
- Setting up a routine: my life’s a lot busier than it was when I first started writing, so I now schedule in a time for writing every day, even if it’s only a short while sometimes
- Keeping lists of story ideas that pop into my head (now, if only I could remember where all my lists are…)
- Karen Blixen’s wonderful quote: