Today’s guest post is written by Andy Crestodina.
Take a nap.
Eat a sandwich.
Call a friend.
Take a hot shower.
Music, nature, and 99 other tips are… not in this article. This article is about the true source behind writer’s block.
Herein, we reveal why we hit that wall and why, at times, we simply cannot write that next word.
Following is what two powerhouse writers have to say about overcoming writers block. Incidentally, the quotes that follow are transcribed from podcasts and speeches.
You haven’t prepared.
In an interview with Copyblogger’s Internet Marketing for Smart People Radio, John Carlton said this about writer’s block:
“I’ve said before that writer’s block is a myth. Whenever I speak, there’s usually a number of writers in the audience…and I’ll say ‘how many people are bothered by writer’s block?’ and a good third to a half of the room will raise their hands.
And I disabuse them of the notion. My response is: ‘Grow up. It’s a myth. It’s nonsense.’ All writer’s block is is not being prepared on what you need to do.
If you sit down and you haven’t got a headline burning in your head and you don’t know how you’re going to start this conversation…if you’re not ready to blast that first draft out when you sit down, then you have no business sitting down and even starting, because you should be prepared. You should be boiling with the information you need.”
The takeaway from Carlton is, if you you’re struggling to write, you aren’t ready yet. Keep researching. Seek more information. Keep learning until you have more to say.
You don’t care about the topic.
Ray Bradbury, in his keynote address to the Writer’s Symposium by the Sea in 2001, had another take on overcoming writer’s block.
“People are always saying ‘Well, what do we do about a sudden blockage in your writing? What if you have a blockage, and you don’t know what to do about it?’
Well, it’s obvious you’re doing the wrong thing, isn’t it? In the middle of writing something, you go blank and your mind says: ‘No, that’s it.’ OK. You’re being warned, aren’t you? Your subconscious is saying, ‘I don’t like you anymore. You’re writing about things I don’t give a damn for.’
If you’ve got writer’s block, you can cure it this evening by stopping whatever you’re writing and doing something else. You picked the wrong subject.”
The takeaway from Bradbury is, you only have trouble writing if you’re writing something you don’t care about. If you loved the topic, you wouldn’t have this problem.
“Writing is not a serious business. It’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun with it. Ignore the authors who say ‘Oh, my God, what word? Oh, <dammit>…,’ you know. Now, to hell with that. It’s not work. If it’s work, stop and do something else.”
Embrace it, and choose one of these two options.
Writer’s block is your internal BS detector stopping you from writing something uninteresting or poorly researched. It’s a natural check against churning out crap. It’s a good thing.
When you’re blocked, stop pushing ahead. Carlton and Bradbury would have you consider these options:
- Go back. Study your topic more.
- Go another way. Find a topic for which you feel some passion.
This is consistent with all the usual tips for writer’s block: Stop writing. But now you know its true cause. It’s a frustrating instinct, but you should trust it.
Use writer’s block to be a better, happier, more productive writer.
Andy Crestodina is the strategic director of Orbit Media, a web design company in Chicago, where he writes for the Orbit blog. You can find Andy on Google+ and Twitter.