I’ve never wanted to be anything other than a writer. I don’t remember the moment I made that choice. I’m not sure there was even a choice to make. It just…was.
So why do I have so much trouble with it?
Some call it writer’s block. I called it writer’s block. But now I don’t think writer’s block is real. At least it’s not the bottomless pit I thought it was.
I was offended the first time I read an article claiming that the shit I’d been dealing with for years was all in my head. Accusing me of being lazy not blocked. But I don’t think that’s right either.
Writers view writer’s block almost as a disease, a cancer only writers are susceptible to. Once you have it, the only cure is to cut it out and hope for the best. That’s just not true.
It’s not a disease. It’s a bump in the road but it’s not a death sentence.
This is the ultimate cause. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of the unknown. Any kind of fear can cause writer’s block.
What if I’m not good enough? What if I am good enough but it’s not what I thought it would be? What if I never succeed?
That last one is what got me. I was sitting at my little desk at my crappy job that I hated. The kind of job where you wake up praying you’ve got whatever flu is in vogue that year. I think it was swine flu around then.
It didn’t matter. Not sick enough to die just sick enough to take off work for a few weeks. Anything to get me out of going.
Dreaming about getting published and being able to tell my boss to kiss my ass as I skipped out the door, tossing copies of my now famous book to people waiting on the stairs, got me through it.
Until one day it occurred to me that not everyone’s dream comes true. Believe me, that thought pissed all over my happy little parade.
I froze. You think that’s a cliché, it’s not and I didn’t realize it until that moment. I literally sat there, hands poised over the keyboard, heart racing, contemplating the idea of the next 40 years working a job I can’t stand because I wasn’t good enough to publish.
That was the first moment I truly considered failure a possibility.
How do you get over it?
I’m not sure. I’m still working on that. It’s part of the reason I started this blog. It’s the reason I haven’t written a good story in about 4 years.
But I’m trying. I’ve been trying. I’ve been searching for a magical solution to my problem and I kept thinking that I’d start this blog so I could share it with you when I find it.
There isn’t a magic answer. You just have to keep going, keep writing. And if you keep going after a moment like that, that’s your answer. You’re a writer and you will succeed because no one keeps going after that kind of epiphany if they don’t really want it.
Don’t Make My Mistakes
I hid behind research. It was a glamorous farce to be sure. I’m not writing because I have to figure out how to write before I can. I’m not writing because I’m not ready. I’m not writing because I haven’t found my story. I’m not writing because I need to read one more book on characterization and one more on plot. I’m not writing because I don’t have the time now but I will later.
I could go on but I think you get the point.
Do these sound familiar?
These are the pretty little lies we tell ourselves to ease the guilt that stems from not writing. Yes, there are days when you really just can’t or you have to take a break.
But these excuses weren’t used a day here and day there. They became my mantra. Days stretched into weeks and weeks into years.
Before I knew it, I was creeping up on 30, filled with regret over the time I wasted researching.
Read articles and books, learn new things. But write. Write every day as much and as often as you can. During the spaces in between, read. Those two things are all you need to become a good writer.
That’s all you have to do. Write a lot and read a lot.
I’ve read widely and extensively over the last 6 years on writing. As many books and articles as I could find. Those are the two lessons that have made a difference. The rest is extra and, most of that, you’ll find you already know. Story telling is part of human nature. We’re all ingrained with the instinct for recognizing a good story. Our personalities give these stories nuance. Trust that instinct. Let yourself bleed onto the pages.
Keep writing, keep reading, and trust yourself. The rest will fall into place.