Writing When You Think You Can’t

There’s an affliction that some people suffer from that is especially prevalent among writers, fiction writers in particular. They call it Writer’s Block and, apparently, it renders them unable to write a single word on their current project. Sounds horrible. I can only imagine what it must feel like since I’ve never experienced it, probably because I don’t believe in it.

It’s very hard to experience something you don’t believe in. On the other hand, successful people will tell you that a little faith goes a long, long way toward creating the kinds of experiences you want to have. But, back to writing.

I’ve heard many reasons people suffer from Writer’s Block. I would call them excuses but my goal here is not to start a fight or take anyone’s suffering lightly. The truth is, there is a tried-and-true way to overcome this affliction.

If you find yourself unable to write but you have the means to write (pencil and paper, computer, stone tablet and chisel), then write. Problem solved.

I realize this advice isn’t always easy to take, especially when what we’re trying to write is important to us. But I promise you it is the only antidote to this affliction.

Thought leaders can fall into this trap when they get caught up in how important the topic is that they want to address. They fear that they will handle it poorly and lose credibility. Or that no one will read it. Or that the wrong people will. Or…well, it usually spirals out of control from here.

The cure requires you to have faith in your ability, or in my case some ability inside of me. You must trust yourself. The very best writing I’ve ever done was drafted when I wasn’t even thinking about it, at least not consciously. 

I completed my research, stuffing everything I could learn about the topic into my brain, and then I turned it off and just wrote. I trusted myself to pour some words onto the page that, while not perfect by any means, would provide a good foundation for the rewriting I would do later.

Like anything else you ever do, this kind of free writing is a skill you must develop. It takes practice and the more you do it the more you will trust yourself. This is really important because if you don’t trust yourself, why should the people who are looking for a thought leader trust you?

The way many fiction writers handle this is by writing morning pages. You start your day with a few minutes of free writing. You don’t worry about the topic, you just set a timer and don’t let your hand stop moving on the page or keyboard until it goes off.

Because this can be challenging in the beginning, it can be helpful to start with a page of prompts and pick one at the beginning of each morning writing session. Don’t be surprised if you move off the topic into something else that has been on your mind, though probably just under the surface. That’s fair. Go where the writing takes you so when you are writing something really important you’ll have faith in your ability to go where you must to share your thoughts.

This exercise can be done anytime, not just first thing in the morning. I love to do it whenever I hear a fellow writer complain of having Writer’s Block, just to make sure I didn’t catch it from them. I never have. Write every morning and you won’t either.

This post first appeared on Scott Schang’s Second Opinion Loan Officer (SOLO) community. Find out more about his work on his website.

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