Writer’s Block: Fact or Fantasy?

I’ve never really believed in writer’s block: “Pfft,” I would say. “There’s no such thing as writer’s block. I can always write,” I would tell myself. Not saying my efforts would come to anything, but I always seemed to have something to say, literary or not.

Well, guess what?

Writer’s Block

There are a thousand reasons why I could be experiencing writer’s block, all noted here in “Spending Grief,” but I’m trying to avoid excuses.  I always thought writer’s block, if in fact that’s what’s really going on with me, would be painful, like some incurable disease, but in reality, it’s just this vacancy. Nothing is there, not in my head and not flowing through my fingers and onto my monitor. It’s merely a vast, wordless emptiness. I figure this unproductive void is my comeuppance for all those years as a nonbeliever. And I guess that actually is painful, at least, to me.

My Goal

My goal is to get past this wordless phase and start writing again. As all writers know, being unkind to ourselves, chastising ourselves is not much help. I’m trying to be patient, as I try to analyze why this is happening. Last year and earlier this year, I wrote 45,000 words, my first attempt at fiction, forty-five thousand words just sitting there, in the cloud. Waiting.

But I can’t seem to finish it.

And I like what I wrote.

Or should I say, I don’t loathe it. Is it good? Not sure, but I don’t despise it to the point that it’s keeping me from finishing it. Burn out? Maybe, but there I go making another excuse.

And then there’s my busy-ness.

Too Busy to Write

I was raised by busy parents. No one in my family was ever a napper. We were busy, always going, so I’m not going to lie. I can easily occupy myself to the point where I run out of time to write, and that’s definitely first on a long list of offenses. I’m a busy, busy person in my off time, cleaning the garage, planting flowers, there’s always something that seems to need doing, and I sure am good at staying busy. In fact, I’m a professional.

I decided it might be helpful to review. By examining my writing history and habits, I learned that I’ve been my most prolific either when I’m travelling or working part time, neither of which is the case right now, but the common ground was that I had loads of free time, time to be outdoors, time to breathe, and time to open my mind to the creative process. But there has to be some sort of work around here, right? Other people seem to be able to manage to work full time and still pump out novels and write on their blogs. Why not me? I was determined to figure this out and get to the root of my wordlessness.

Why?

I researched, learned about the brain: the frontal lobe, white matter, and hippocampus. I read reams of advice for overcoming writer’s block. I asked Google, “Why do we get writer’s block.” I learned that many writer’s feel judged and rejected, and that in itself is enough to cause creatives to slam on the productivity brakes. All of that was fascinating, but I didn’t connect with any of it. What I did connect with was something I came across quite by accident after writing a random post for Instagram about finding my “center.”

Since I didn’t even really know I had a center, where, or what it was, I asked Google why being centered is so important,  I didn’t find anything directly related to writing, but what I learned made a whole lot of sense. Dr. Shelley Sommerfeldt explains that being centered means “a state of emotional and spiritual equilibrium. The goal,” she continues “is to feel what you feel in the moment, but also be reflective and pensive about the situation so that you are more centered and in control of your experience.”

The Plan

I realized that while I may have experienced this state of mind at some point in my life, it had been quite a while. In fact, my brain has been busy doing what it seems to do best, keeping busy, I’m so far away from my center, I’m no longer even on the field. So this is my plan. I’m going to find my center and hopefully hang on to it. I’m thinking this is the solution to my wordlessness, but it certainly won’t hurt to try. So if you need me, I’ll be at the beach tomorrow morning self-reflecting, searching for balance, and seeking stillness.

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  • I agree that centering yourself makes all things right. In fact, I could use to spend more time relaxing at the beach. I just completed my first year of a PhD program in sociology, which was pretty intense, but I found myself having difficulty keeping up with personal writing projects in the meantime (which I was unhappy about). Do you have any particular thoughts about managing academic work and personal writing?

    Thank you!!

    • Hi there!

      It’s a struggle for sure! My thoughts are that it’s especially tough for you given the academic nature of your writing right now. I tried copy writing for a brief period a few years back and found that my brain flipped so far into a more technical style of writing, I was unable to produce in a creative genre! Ugh! I’m the last one to give advice right now given my own lack of creativity, but I’m planning to carve out extra time–which I have not been allowing myself lately–time to think about anything but work, finances, or any other “problem” that might be occupying my thoughts. I highly recommend time outdoors, walking, running, time that will allow your brain to breathe. Best of luck to you and kudos on finishing the first year of your PhD program! That’s amazing. I’ll be cheering you on from the sidelines! 🙂

      • Thank you for the kind words! It’s been a struggle, but now that I have some time off for the summer, I should be able to let my brain breathe more. When the fall semester comes around, I might need to set concrete times for academic work and then personal writing. Best of luck to you as well! I’m sure everything will work out!