Writer's block is a lie—here's how I know and what you can do about it
For four years (okay, five) I sat in college classrooms and churned out paper after paper— persuasive essay for a composition class here and a huge research paper for 300-level sociology there. If the syllabus said this paper was due at midnight on Monday, it didn’t matter if I hadn’t had time to start it until 8:17 p.m. on Monday, it somehow got done. I was a student.
Motivated by the threat of a zero and the cumulative effect said zero would have on my quest to ultimately obtain a degree, I drank the energy drink and ate the one-pound bag of Sour Patch Kids and got it done. Writers don’t want to work that way. Writers want the creative freedom to work when, where, and how we choose. Sometimes, that desire makes us think we need the perfect conditions under which to create the perfect masterpiece.
What if this sentence could be better? What if these words could be better? What if the meaning of life is at the end of my fingertips and I’ll miss it if I force myself to sit down and write a second before such divine wisdom is imparted to me?
This, my melodramatic creative friends, is fear. Writer’s block is fear. It’s perfectionism. To be clear, the feeling of being blocked is real, but the fear behind the blockage is a lie. You are capable of writing right here and right now. While I do not recommend you eat a one-pound bag of sour candy, I highly recommend you respond to feeling blocked by thinking of what you can do. You can…
Write down two or three things you’ve written that you’re proud of. You’ve done it before and the world did not end. You can do this.
Text your most encouraging friend and admit that you’re stuck. Sometimes this simple act of being transparent goes a long way. Even if your friends aren’t exactly Dear Abby, they tend not to buy into your impostor syndrome. They likely think you’re a really good writer, even when you don’t.
Read someone else’s words. Face words without having to write them yourself. It’s a nice little reminder of what it looks like when people string together words to make enjoyable paragraphs. Use it as inspiration.
Just do it: write. Unless you’re the type of writer whose 15-minute break turns into a six-month hiatus, give yourself the grace to get up and do something else. Return to your project remembering that creativity is not just about beauty and art—it’s work and dedication.