Your writer’s block is not real. Some of you will hear that and think “this guy doesn’t know what I’m going through!” And you’re right, I have no idea what you’re going through, but if that’s your response, there are a billion other ways you can keep procrastinating on this website so feel free to go click off onto one of those rabbit holes. For the rest of you who hear writer’s block is not real and think what a relief, congratulations—you just might make it.
Here are four reasons why you don’t have writer’s block.
It’s just an excuse.
Writer’s block is a declaration of being, not a state of mind. There’s always something else we could be doing, always some other way of spending the time we keep telling ourselves should be for writing. Everyone has the same 24 hours in a given day and even though everyone’s circumstances and priorities are different, the fact is that you can arrange those priorities in any given ranking that you choose.
Much the same that a character is defined by their action, so to is your character defined by yours. The only difference is that the character on the page isn’t real and can get infinite drafts to get it right. You, on the other hand, live out here in the real world, and this is (presumably) the only draft we get to write this story.
When you reside to declaring that you have writer’s block and proceed to continue binging Gilmore Girls, you’re not giving your brain the chance to do the work of writing for you. “You can’t just will random words when you’ve got nothing in the tank!” No, you most certainly can’t. Stop making excuses and start making progress.
You don’t have writer’s block because you haven’t done enough research.
If you’re really struggling with what to write, chances are, whatever your chosen topic, you haven’t put enough in the tank for your brain to do the work of connecting the dots. Research is often my favorite part of the writing process, because its where inspiration tends to strike the most. Whether its studying up on a certain time period, finding stories that are similar in tone and style to the one you’d like to write or just compiling music that brings you to exactly the right emotions you want to imbue into your story—there are plenty of ways to find the things that will lead you to know exactly what to write. But how do you know when you’ve found the right thing?
There’s a certain full body feeling you get when that connection is made, you can feel it across your whole nervous system—where you know exactly where it belongs. But how do we have that feeling all the time so we can write faster? The short answer is, you can’t.
That writer’s block you think you have might actually just be you trying too hard.
As counterintuitive as it may sound, you’re not going to get anywhere by staring at a blank page hoping inspiration will strike. A lot of times, you’re going to do your writing when you’re far away from your keyboard, pen or however else it is you write. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stuck on a character or plot question and I’ll be driving or in the shower or just going about my daily life when I get that full body sensory feeling of being blessed with inspiration.
In Maxwell Maltz’s Psycho-Cybernetics, he talks about the Creative Mechanism within all of our minds. It’s the sort of thing that you must set an intention for, like a question about your story that you’re having trouble answering, but it requires a bit of setting and forgetting it. He says:
you must learn to trust your creative mechanism to do its work and not “jam it” by becoming too concerned or too anxious as to whether it will work or not, or by attempting to force it by too much conscious effort. You must “let it” work rather than “make it” work… its nature is to operate spontaneously according to present need. Therefore, you have no guarantees in advance. It comes into operation as you act and as you place demand on it by your actions.
Psycho-Cybernetics is not a book about writing by any stretch, but there’s plenty in there that could help the writer get out of their own head so they can get back to writing. Sometimes being in your own head isn’t your problem though.
Sometimes, you think you have writer’s block when the truth is you just don’t know how to be bored.
I know this one makes me very popular with my friends because I sound like the old man yelling at clouds, but consider this.
These portals in your pocket are not designed to help you. They’re designed to generate profit for companies by manipulating the same organ you use to write, your brain. Instagram, YouTube, PornHub and every other site that’s filled with “free content” features the most advanced AI algorithms ever designed and its targeted squarely at your squishy monkey brain with one single objective: getting you to keep scrolling.
And when you’re scrolling, you’re not thinking. And if you’re not giving your brain the chance to think, you’re not giving yourself the chance to write. Louis CK on the Joe Rogan Experience sums it up quite well:
David Lynch likens the creative process to that of fishing puzzle pieces out of the air. You’re given pieces that sometimes don’t even go to the puzzle you’re currently working on but with enough patience, you’ll be able to start making the connections and eventually, you’ll have a finished piece on your hands. If you’re constantly distracting yourself, keeping your brain occupied enough where it won’t ever do the work of making those connections while you’re going about your day.
If you’re struggling with inspiration, I challenge you to be bored more often. Stop letting algorithms hijack your mind, let your earbuds charge up in their case, and just be in your body a bit. Strike up a conversation. Just, be a person. I promise it’ll help you get to the heart of your story sooner than you might think.