When the Words Stop Flowing …
What do you do when the writing just doesn’t come, when the words don’t flow out of you like all easy rivers flow to the sea, and when a blank screen stays blank minutes and hours on end?
What do you do when you can’t seem to tell your story?
It’s not for lack of trying, that much you know for certain.
You’ve done everything right. You’ve tried to set your distractions aside, made time and space in your life, created a quiet haven in your home or wherever you have settled down to write, and you even have the perfect music playing.
But nothing. Nothing Is Happening.
Or perhaps, what’s happening is so abhorrent to you that you delete and toss it before it sees the light of day. And then you stare at your refreshed blank screen, deflated from all the earlier mishaps with the day’s writing, and feeling empty and frustrated for having nothing to show for the last 3 hours.
The muse is not visiting today or ever it seems. The creative force that was with you in the shower or in the car is nowhere, nowhere at all.
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You’re not naive. You knew this wasn’t going to be easy.
You accepted that there would be bad days of writing and good days of writing, but you didn’t expect oh so many bad days in a row, and so little inspiration for such a long stretch of time. You expected a fair balance at play from the Writing Universe. Or at least a little break.
You’ve seen the signs and you know what this is. You were warned after all. You’re ready to declare defeat because you have indeed caught “writer’s block”. It’s not good news but at least every writer – or aspiring writer – out there can sympathize with you even if they can’t solve your problem.
“I don’t believe in writer’s block. Writer’s block is when you’re running down an ally and all of a sudden you’re trapped by a brick wall. You can’t go under, over, or through it. You’re stuck. But the problem isn’t that you can’t pass the brick wall. You see, the problem is that you went down the wrong ally.”
― Barry Lyga
Beware: Writer’s Block is a Myth.
Writer’s block is a myth. It does not exist.
Your writing cannot possibly be blocked. You are not a road. They can’t block you with boulders and cars!
You are a genius human being with the vast expanse of the entire universe in your imagination!
Even though you are a physical being, your writing comes from beyond the physical realm and therefore, it cannot be blocked, stopped or taken away. Not unless you allow it.
Some of the greatest books in our history were written in the most dire circumstances known to man and woman. On typewriters. On paper. Sometimes on even less satisfying tools. They were written in prison cells, in hiding places during the war, in ghettos, in small laundry rooms and cold basements, in cars, in motel rooms, and worse much worse places.
Those writers didn’t have writer’s block – or if they did, it did not matter one bit – did it – because their life’s work depended on the written word and by God, they were going to write every single word if it cost them their lives or other high prices.
When you think about those writers and their circumstances – lacking in almost all of life’s simple comforts not just for their day-to-day living but for doing their work, their writing, how do you feel about your own declaration of “writer’s block”?
Does it even make sense that you would allow yourself to succumb to such a shallow excuse and let it delay your life’s work? Does it seem fair that an outside force that you can’t even understand would put a stop to your writing projects for an indefinite period of time?
Even If It Were ‘Real’, You Can’t Afford It
If you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are by that declaration asking your unconscious to prepare the material. You are, in effect, contracting to pick up such valuables at a given time. Count on me, you are saying to a few forces below: I will be there to write.” — Norman Mailer in The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing
Is writer’s block for real? What does it even mean? Does it mean lack of inspiration, lack of desire, lack of discipline, lack of story inside of you or lack of something else entirely?
Whether you believe writer’s block is real or a myth, if you want to have a career as a writer, you just can’t afford it. It is too high a price to pay with your time and energy and resources.
In fact, you will be risking your future as a successful writer by the simple fact of believing in writer’s block. Because you have neither the time nor the energy to entertain any periods of break from your writing, darling! None whatsoever!
If you want to be a writer in your heart of hearts, then you must write every single day.
You must write when you don’t feel like it, when you can’t stand the idea of sitting down and typing, and when you have every brilliant excuse to do something else.
A writer writes. A writer writes whether it’s raining or sunny, whether he’s in a good or bad mood, whether she’s had a great or rotten day, whether he’s sick or well, whether she’s inspired or not.
A writer writes every single day without the promise that the writing will always be great or even good but simply with the self-assurance that he or she takes the responsibility of daily writing most seriously, and this process itself will cultivate the seasoned writer, one that knows no such thing as “writer’s block”.
You, your muse and heeding the signs.
If you ask me, writer’s block is more rubbish than real. I’m not saying you won’t have periods of absolute stagnation in your writing. Or that there won’t be periods when you won’t feel like writing a single sentence or producing anything worthy of being read. Or that on occasion you won’t be terrified of writing and being read.
I’m just saying writer’s block is not real. Writing is just hard work. And the periods when the writing is not flowing are simply subtle sign for a little help.
I imagine the sign carrying a message from your muse that says something like this:
“Look here now, boss! I’ve been helping you out and flowing like the Amazon river for the past year or decade or week (whatever the case may be with your writing history), but I’ve just about had it. You need to go back to the mountain cabin and start with me at 6am NOT 3:30pm when you feel like a nap OR you need to tell the kids to leave you alone and that means no knocking on the door when we are trying to write that scene together for the 18th time OR you can’t expect me to show up if you’re still noodling over the spat you had with your honey. So make up your mind. Commit. Show up and I will too.”
So ‘writer’s block’ – if you insist on calling it that – is just a sign for a little help that you need to heed and fix before the writing can flow again.
If you want your muse to show up daily, be gentle and inviting. Open the door and make it enticing for it to waltz in and sit next to you. Be original, creative, natural, and prolific in your writing.
Show up every day and have the highest intention to do the sacred work of writing. Aim to inspire, entertain and inform the reader and be willing to do it tirelessly and effortlessly. Do this and your muse has no choice but to show up.
Treat your muse with gentle compassion, with quiet peace and understanding, with patience and love, and it will show up again and again.
What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’ — Maya Angelou
I don’t believe in writer’s block, but I certainly believe in writer’s muse. What about you? Tell me in the comments.