I’ve debated for a while now about writing a post and sharing my experience with writers block and finally decided it’s time. I know I can’t be the only one to have experienced this and if I can help others through what I dealt with then it makes it all worth it.
As you may know, I was out of writing for awhile; six years I believe. And I know some of you wonder what in the world I was doing. Well, I was, in a word: struggling. Struggling to write. Yes, there were a quite a few deaths in my family during that time, but the truth is the problem was me. Plain and simple. For those who do not know me, I’m really big on taking responsibility for one’s own actions and not making excuses, so you will not find excuses here only and apology and an explanation.
As for an explanation, here goes… I could not write. I do not mean in the literal sense; there was nothing wrong with my typing fingers. The problem was all psychological. I’d write a couple of sentences, then decide they were the absolute worst words ever put to paper and then editing the life out of them for an hour before getting frustrated and giving up. I allowed myself to get caught up in perfectionism and convinced myself that I had to make it absolutely perfect for my readers. I allowed negative comments and reviews to color my perspective and as a result I froze up. Writing became an exercise in futility. I could not see the forest for the trees (In this case, forest = completed work and trees = sentences).
To be perfectly honest, I believe there comes a time in every writers career when they simply know too much. They know exactly what makes a great story. There is something to be said for the old saying: “ignorance is bliss.” I used to sit down and write, and never worry about it being perfect. I never worried what readers thought, or what editors like or don’t like. I wrote for myself and appreciative readers was a bonus after the fact.
How did I fix it? I realized that I was suffering from FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real). Sounds simple, right? It was not. Identifying the problem was indeed a big help, but the human mind is a very, very complex thing. Just because you know something doesn’t mean you believe it. No matter how much you want to and believe me I really wanted to. So I had to train myself to just write. I focused on not editing and forced myself not to put expectations on my work before it was completed. I had to retrain myself to write for myself, knowing that if I enjoyed it the chances were that readers would enjoy it as well. It was a very long process. I can’t tell you how many times I’d write something, force myself to send it to my critique partners, and then get aggravated at them when they could not see how terrible the writing was. I’m happy to say that they did not strangle me, but I suspect it was close at times. I love you all to pieces Kimberly Gardner, Kris Jacen, and Willa Okati. Thank you for standing by me and helping me write again.
So how do you fix this problem if you find yourself in this situation? Write! Just write! Write for yourself. Write like no one will ever see what you’ve written. It’s okay if it’s not perfect. I’ll tell you a little secret: It’s not perfect. There is no such thing as perfect. Some people are going to hate your writing, but the flip side of that is that some people are also going to love your work. It’s one of the beautiful thing about human beings. We all have different tastes, and we are all individual. It makes us interesting. The bottom line is you have to find the joy in writing again. Write for yourself, have fun. Some of the best advice I received while struggling through my years long block was from the amazing and super talented Angela Knight who told me, “Just write the damned book!”
As a final note. For other writers going through the same thing: Please know that you are not alone. I’ve talked to many writers while I was going through my “writer’s block”. This is not a new affliction, several of us have gone through it, or will go though it. I suspect it has something to do with the creative mind.
My fellow writers… You too can get through this. Hang in there. Fight through it, but most importantly, find the joy in writing.
Readers… What is there to say but thank you? To old readers and new, from the very bottom of my heart, thank you!