Posted on May 17th, 2016
Is writer's block a real thing?
People who don't write for a living are the only ones who really can afford to be stymied by writer's block, to be rendered paralyzed, unable to put word to paper or keystroke to screen. But in my experience, those whose livelihoods depend upon their spitting words out with regularity don't buy into the concept of writer's block; we tend to view that phenomenon as a luxury that we simply can't afford. (And, being writers, there are LOTS of things we simply can't afford.)
That's not to say that professional writers don't get stuck staring at empty pages or screens. It happens to us all the time. Mark Twain himself got stuck all the time; he famously squirreled away manuscripts for up to months at a time when he encountered what seemed like insurmountable obstacles.
But writers who HAVE to write to pay the bills develop and rely on strategies for unblocking the blockage.
Sure, we indulge our paralysis for a while. We drink more coffee, watch stuff on YouTube, check Facebook, eat a handful of peanut M&Ms and then another and... well, so now that bag of M&Ms is gone so we need something salty.... But at some point, when we're stuffed and there's nothing left to snack on, push comes to shove and we make ourselves write.
A looming deadline, the closer, the better, is the best cure for writer's block that I know of. If that looming deadline comes with a paycheck dangling behind it, the more powerful an antidote it becomes. Having someone in your office space who will notice the rapid depletion of the M&Ms stock, the number of times you comment on their Facebook posts, and the incredibly obscure YouTube videos you've scraped up goes a long way, too.
But for me, the best way to avoid and combat writer's block is simply to write. Write as much as you can, every single day. Always have a zillion projects to juggle, from that Great American Novel you've been plugging away at to that perfect tweet you've been crafting. That way, when you get stuck on one project, you can shift to another, get your juices flowing, and then, freshly inspired, switch back to the one that most needs your attention at the moment. Writing is a habit, a practice that requires practice, and, for writers, it's second nature, almost as central to existence as breathing and going to the bathroom.
Having said that, I acknowledge that some, many, perhaps most people who want to and try to write butt up against writer's block now and then. Do you? How do you handle it? What are your tricks and tips for avoiding writer's block in the first place and for working around it when it rears its stubborn head?