How to Easily Overcome Writer’s Block
Just Don’t Make This One Simple Mistake
You read about it all the time. I had writer’s block. I just stared at the blank screen for hours and never wrote anything. Sounds horrible. I can’t really say for sure, because it hasn’t happened to me in a very long time.
Most of my friends would believe this because they would never accept the opposite. “Darryl, run out of something to say? Impossible.”
But that’s not the reason I don’t get writer’s block. Having something to say and being able to write it down are two different things. As Harlan Coben’s character Windsor Horne Lockwood III would say, you have to be able to articulate.
When I was a child, for a short time, I was afraid of the dark. I wrote about that here. Actually, it wasn’t the dark I was scared of, but the things that hid in the darkness. But one night, I learned not to fear the monsters in my closet. And for the same reason, I no longer get writer’s block.
Because I realized it wasn’t a real thing.
Writers write. And most of us write every day, just like plumbers fix pipes every day. You never hear of plumber’s block.
I recently bought a guitar. And I knew that to learn how to play and improve my skill, I had to practice. Every day. And I did for weeks. And with each day, I improved.
Then one day, I was about to practice, when I suddenly couldn’t pick up the guitar. I just stared at it for hours. I had guitar block.
Of course, that never happened. Why? Because it’s not a real thing. And neither is writer’s block.
I’m not saying that people are lying. I believe that they may sit there and stare at a blank sheet of paper or screen. But my question is why. Why would a writer just stare at the screen? Why not, I don’t know, write something?
There’s only one reason I can think of. Fear. Fear of failure or fear of success. Maybe fear that you actually suck at this writing thing deep down, and no one is really reading your crap anyway.
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
~ Bene Gesserit litany against fear — Dune — Frank Herbert
I have known fear. I have known fear, both rational and irrational. And I have let it freeze me up. But I have learned one thing. I have learned this with absolute certainty. Freezing up with fear never works. Only action works. Like the rabbits in Richard Adam’s Watership Down, if you go tharn in the middle of the road, the Hrududu will run you down. (You’ll just have to read it for yourself).
Action wins over fear every time.
In another story of mine, I talked about the summer I went skydiving. The story comes down to that point when I’m sitting in the airplane’s door, 3,000 feet over the earth. I was afraid. Who wouldn’t be? I don’t want to know the person who wouldn’t be. So, what did I do?
I jumped out of the plane.
Because that was the only possible way to fight the fear. I could have not jumped. I could have crawled back inside and sat in the corner until the plane landed. But the fear would still be there. I would carry that fear with me for the rest of my life. But I didn’t let that happen.
I kicked that fear’s puny little ass.
And that’s all you have to do when you are staring at that blank screen. The longer you sit there, the worse it. Because fear is the enemy. Fear is the mind-killer. You must not fear. But what do you do instead? When faced with that blank screen, recite the litany against fear in your mind and do one thing. Do the only thing you can do.
Because writers write.
As I said, I don’t get writer’s block, but I do occasionally get that blank screen. When I develop an idea, I create a file in my software with the idea of the title. And hopefully, open the document and jot down a few notes. But sometimes I don’t. Probably because the concept is so obvious, my intent so clear, that I couldn’t help but write about it a day or week later when I open it up.
Except when it’s not.
I open up the document with that idea sitting at the top and think WTF was I thinking? What even is that? And I’m almost always tempted just to close it back up and delete it.
But I never do. That would be too easy. Instead, I type the idea as the title, hit return a couple of times…
And before the first sentence, or more often, a sentence fragment is done, I know how to finish it. Not the piece. The sentence. And once the first sentence is written, the second sentence just flows out of it.
And before I know it, I’m 1,000 words down the road and not looking back. I know where I’m going and how to get there.
Well, how to get there may be a stretch. Sometimes, I take a wrong turn. Sometimes I take a detour. And every once in a while, I stop, turn around and head back in the other direction.
But you know what? All that means is now I have two articles. Or three. Or the ideas for the next few.
And all I had to do was that one thing. That one simple thing.