Originally published Febuary 25, 2018.
Like a lot of writers, I struggle with writer’s block. Even having put out gaining stories as proficiently as I have for as long as I have, I still have those times were I sit down to put the words down, and nothing comes out. But it’s not just that they won’t come out. It’s that the very prospect of writing is so unappealing that you’d think it was painful. Where it gets so bad that I’d rather cycle between the same three social media sites, even though there’ll be nothing new on any of them because I’m checking them too often, while the album that I put on to help me focus on my writing plays from beginning to end. And when it ends, I feel like a failure because I haven’t even gotten one word down, and the hot chocolate I got to help me write is sitting across the table from me mostly empty, and it feels like all my efforts to keep myself on task have gone to waste.
In any case, for the longest time, I treated this condition like a deficiency in my character, and something I had to just push through. After all, your readers will never get to see this story you’ve put so much time and effort into if you don’t finish it, Owen. Stop making excuses, stop messing around, and get to writing! So I’d spend an hour or two working up the nerve to put words to the metaphorical page, only for the entire expereince to feel stiff and unnatural, forcing myself to do it like I force myself to clean my apartment or fold my laundry. As a result, the writing comes out reading like I have as much passion for it as I do for doing my taxes, and with exactly as much creativity evident in the final result.
But maybe that wasn’t the correct approach.
What got me rethinking this particularly insidious flavor of writer’s block, and how I counter it, was a post by one Rex of the blog Wrex Writes, where he talked about the idea of “getting” yourself to write.
But maybe before we force our butts into chairs, we should ask why it’s so hard to “get” ourselves to write. We aren’t acting randomly; our brains say “I don’t want to do this” for a reason. We should take that reason seriously.
Most of us resist writing because it hurts and it’s hard… It feels fucking awful, so naturally we avoid it. We can’t “make writing a habit,” then, until we make it less painful. Something we don’t just “get” ourselves to do.
So many of us already dismiss our own pain constantly. If we turn writing into another occasion for mute suffering, for numb and joyless endurance, we 1) will not write more, and 2) should not write more, because we should not intentionally hurt ourselves.
“Numb and joyless endurance”. Sounds about right. I’ve tried to capture the essence of the post in this quote, but if you’re a writer who struggles with this kind of writer’s block, you should absolutely read the whole thing. And if you struggle with it to the point that you find it hard to write anything at all, I highly recommend his follow-up, rehab for writing injuries. Personally, I don’t think I’m at the point where I need to use Rex’s rehab program that he outlines in that post. But especially lately, there are enough times when writing feels like a chore, rather than something I’m doing for fun (like it should be!), that I feel I could benefit from doing some introspection on where this resistance to writing comes from.
So what does that mean for my writing going forward? On your end, probably not a whole lot. What it means for me is that I’m going to be writing my next few stories with the intention of easing that particular kind of writer’s block. For now, I’ll be focusing on stories that will hopefully be easy for me to write. And if/when they get difficult, I’m going to focus on asking myself why, rather than trudging through them and forcing myself to keep going. There won’t be any trudging for the next few weeks or so. I have one story finished that’s up for early access patrons at my Patreon, that’s scheduled to go up for everyone this Friday. After that story, everything else I post in the immediate future will be part of this sort of self-administered writer rehabilitation.
The only major difference on your end is that I won’t be taking suggestions while I’m on this writer rehabilitation. While I’m working on myself and my writing process, I need to be able to answer only to myself as I’m writing these stories. Quite a lot of that particular brand of writer’s block has come while working on stories based on suggestions, so for now, I want to eliminate that particular source of it. If I decide to make writing a story based on a request a part of this rehabilitation process, I’ll solicit requests privately from folks of my choosing whose requests I’ve gelled with well in the past, rather than putting out a general call for them.
I probably won’t announce an official end to this rehabilitation. I think I’ll just naturally come out of it as I start to feel more confident in my writing and enjoy it more consistently. Until there, here’s to a hopefully better and brighter (and more fun!) future.