“Writing is a sickness only cured by writing.”
― Niall Williams,
By Nick Grandy
Writer’s block is something that plagues almost every writer. It’s the feeling of being stuck or without ideas and it puts us in a state of literary inaction. We sit and we wait for the genius to flow from our minds to the page, which usually doesn’t happen, and so we end up producing nothing.
It’s one of the greatest challenges a writer can face. Writing is an art, and like most artists, we are exceptionally hard on ourselves for producing poor results. It may seem silly, but a lot of writers would rather produce no results at all than poor results. This is why so many of us become “afflicted” with writer’s block.
So, how do we combat writer’s block? How do we free the words in our mind from their suspension in stasis?
You may not like this answer, but the only way to conquer writer’s block is to write. I know the great ideas are not coming, I know there is no flow right now, but you have got to write. It doesn’t mean you need to produce the masterpiece you know is floating around in your head somewhere; just write something. Write anything.
This is a big problem with writers and artists of any kind. They know they have great potential and producing anything less than excellence does not seem worthy of doing.
Writer’s call this writer’s block but it’s more of an obsession with perfection. We don’t want to do anything unless we know we can do it perfectly, which will never happen.
The only way we can even come close to perfection is through practice, through repetition. So, by sitting and waiting for the perfect ideas to come, we end up distancing ourselves from the elusive concept of perfection that we so pervasively chase.
This isn’t to say that those great ideas don’t exist somewhere in your mind, but sitting and waiting for them to make their way out of you is not a practical tactic. We must draw these ideas out through writing. Bring out the good ideas by writing out the bad ones.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to publish every word that you write. That would be a nightmare. What you’re trying to do is create a large pile of physical material that you can sift through to find those great ideas. Get all those ideas out of your head and then you can start sorting the good ideas from the bad ones.
A lot of the time, we just need to get the bad ideas out of our head so that the good ideas have more space to show themselves. So, write those bad ideas out of your head to make way for the good ideas!
As writers, we are so obsessed with creating perfect results that we very often don’t create any at all. We want so badly to produce gold that we forget how much digging is required to strike gold.
It’s not easy to find gold, prospectors know this. Do prospectors just sit at the side of the mountain and wait for gold to tumble down the hills into their wheelbarrows? No, they dig. They get their hands dirty. They chip away at the bedrock, piece by piece, relentlessly, until they strike gold. They sift through tons and tons of worthless dirt because they know there’s gold beneath it all.
Believe it or not, all that dirt they sift through is valuable. It’s not as if they’re going to bring clumps of dirt to the goldsmith and try to sell them, but they know that every scoop of dirt is just as valuable as the gold itself. They know that without going through the dirt, they’d never strike gold. There is incredible value in the dirt.
The goldsmith doesn’t care about the dirt however, he’s only interested in the gold. By the same token, your audience doesn’t care about all the bad ideas you’ve sifted through and tossed aside, they only care about the good ones that you share. The prospector is the one who cares. The writer is the one who should care.
A good prospector knows how valuable that “worthless dirt” really is. He knows that without that dirt, gold wouldn’t be as precious. If gold were everywhere you looked, readily available and easily attainable, it wouldn’t be nearly as valuable. It’s valuable because of its rarity. It’s precious because it’s hard to find.
Writer’s block is essentially a choice. It’s a choice to either write or not write. You may not be writing exactly what you want to write, but you’re still writing.
Writer’s block is an acceptable excuse we make to not get our hands dirty. It’s a flimsy reason we create to avoid getting down to work.
If you believe that you have some great ideas, you must be willing to do some dirty work to bring them out of you. Your mind may contain some great ideas, but there are a lot of bad ideas in there too. Writing out those bad ideas is about as dirty as a writer’s work can get, but it must be done.
A big part of conquering writer’s block is understanding that it’s not all going to be gold. You must be willing to dig and dig and dig and turn up nothing but dirt for a while, and not be dissuaded by your lack of gold. You will strike gold eventually, but you won’t strike gold if you stop digging and you certainly won’t strike gold if you never start digging in the first place.
Keep digging. Sift through all that dirt and be thankful for it. Be grateful for all that seemingly worthless dirt and rock. Without the dirt, you’d never strike gold.
I am a twenty-four-year-old man with a strong connection to spirituality and nature, who has an immense passion for the written word. Writing is what gives me my life, it awakens my spirit. I feel it is what I am meant to do. It is my main passion.
Nick’s Blog: GrandDeeds
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