I have a different opinion. I’ve talked with (okay, occasionally ambushed) many writers over the years and find the conversation might go something like this.
Me: “Have you ever had to deal with writer’s block?”
Anonymous Writer: “No, never. Once I start a project I just keep going, no matter what I’m feeling.”
Me: “What about before you begin a project? Have you ever postponed it because you doubt your ability to do it justice? Or maybe you needed to think about it some more - just work out the details in your head?"
At this point the person I’m speaking with usually takes a step back and begins to hem and haw. Most writers don’t include being afraid to start a project, as writer’s block. I would beg to differ – anything that keeps you paralyzed and unable to write is, by definition, writer’s block.
Funny thing is that the people who suffer most from writer’s block are writers who’ve had a modicum of success. Maybe they’ve won a contest or two, or written regularly. Far more often I find that they’re afraid they can’t live up to what’s gone before. I also find it crops up when a writer is trying a new genre. They might be going from fiction to non-fiction, or from writing devotions to writing a column or even romance to science fiction. Let’s face it, trying something new is always a daunting prospect.
Now that we’ve defined it, how do we combat it?
- First, quit putting it off. Make a commitment to spend a certain amount of time in front of the computer – writing – and do it. Sound hard? Of course it is, otherwise everyone would be a writer.
- Begin by writing what you’re afraid of. Fear of failure? Write why it matters. Fear of inadequacy? Define it. You’ll find that it looks small and a little silly when you actually write it down.
- Next, remember how you got here. Recognition in the writing world comes (99.9% of the time) from putting in time. It comes from being willing to let others see your work and getting back at it after rejection. Give yourself some credit – you’re obviously not a wimp, or you wouldn’t be trying to become a writer.
- Finally, give yourself permission to try and fail. Just because this one project doesn’t work out doesn’t mean you’re not a writer. I would say the contrary is true. If everything you’ve tried, succeeded, maybe you’re not trying much.
Oh, and by the way, don’t forget to join the conversation!