is writer’s block real?

My impulse is to say yes, God yes. And this shit has hit me all too hard.

There were whole weeks when I couldn’t write, didn’t have a single creative thought in my mind (that’s probably an exaggeration). Writer’s block revealed its ugly self every so often, and more prominently in my novel writing days.

When I was still working on Harbinger, my second novel, some days my words dragged on like lead. Some days my characters felt foreign. Other days my words flowed out in the form of run-on sentences, fragmented sentences, sentences that disgraced my title of aspiring writer (notice I still haven’t the guts to actually call myself a writer). But those broken sentences were still progress, and I was still excited about writing them.

Now, how on earth do we write like literal gods and goddesses one day and a first-grader the next? It’s easy to blame something rather arbitrary and inclusive like writer’s block.

When I think of writer’s block, I think lack of inspiration. But inspiration, the Muse, whatever you call it, is rare and hard to come by. Most commercially successful writers, when asked for writing advice, talks of discipline and hard work, something that our society often overlooks in favor of “talent” and “geniuses”. See my post on that topic here.

What I don’t consider when I think of writer’s block, is the things that just happen in life. We don’t think of the bad cup of coffee we had at breakfast, the toll that talking to people sometimes take on us, the test we failed, the chores we have to do, the endless bore and emotional hardship we go through. Some days we’re just burned out. And maybe sometimes it’s easier to blame this concept rather than the very concrete things we go through.

Of course, when we don’t write for a while, that emotional baggage piles up, and we feel even less of ourselves. Less motivated, less likely to do menial tasks, less likely to write. When we don’t write, we beat ourselves up, we tell ourselves that we’re not writers, we shame and guilt ourselves into thinking why the hell did we chose this profession.

When these days happen, when “writer’s block” hits you in the face and knocks you over, it’s crucial to be kind to yourself. I just had a couple of inspiration-less days, where I wrote without conviction that anything I wrote was of any value. Yet I still wrote on, one crappy word after another.

(Side note: Creative spirit Amie McNee has a gorgeous blog about taking care ourselves. Most notably, see this post.)

In the end, I’m not sure whether debating about the existence of writer’s block even matters beyond a change in mindset, but maybe even that’s the whole point of the matter. Personally, I’m convinced that writer’s block is overused in the sense that whenever I can’t writer, don’t want to writer, is too tired to write, promptly name the occasion “writer’s block”. But I do think that a lack of inspiration does happen, and happens a lot more often than we think.

As for beating writer’s block, I personally have a couple of different ways for different types:

  1. The lack-of-inspiration writer’s block: Watch a move (Disney, Harry Potter, something that makes you cry); Read a book (classics, Harry Potter, something that makes you cry); Go for a walk outside (listen to the birds, look at the funny shapes of the sky).
  2. The I-don’t-want-to-write writer’s block: Just do it.
  3. The I’m-writing-and-it’s-shit writer’s block: It’s okay. Just keep writing. Do as this cute meme of Dory.
it’s that simple.

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