Writer’s Block and Writing Fears

I could write a book about writer’s block.

I think this is a common feelings among writers. We have the ideas, but we can’t seem to find the motivation or the ability to translate those ideas to the page. Somehow, the mere act of sitting down to write or type causes all words to simply evaporate out of our heads. All we can think about in that moment is how hard it is to write. As a results, I have several bad poems about wanting to write, but being unable to.

Why does this happen?

I’m sure there is some sort of psychological study explaining this phenomena, but I am too lazy to look it up. Instead, I am just going to through in my un-researched, unprofessional speculations into the ring. My writer’s block comes from fear. Specifically, fear that I do not have the talent or experience to give justice to the ideas I have been nursing in my mind.

I know my ideas are grander than my talent.

The human experience is so wild, vibrant, tragic, magical, and complex to fully express in words. Even the greatest of writers are often humbled by the sure difficulty of the task. Our emotions, thoughts, and stories are what make sure unique, but are also what make humanity difficult to portray on the page. The harsh truth is that while many of us have some level of natural talent for writing, and most people can learn the technical skills require to write proficiently, the raw genius that creators crave, is rare. Perfection is illusive, if not non-existent, but most of us will spend our lives chasing it. The result of all of this is the sensation of knowing what we wish to convey, having some understanding of how it could be done, but feeling unequal to the task.

How do we overcome it?

I stopped chasing perfection. As Amy March says in Little Women “Talent is not genius, and no amount of energy can make it so.” While I do agree with this statement, I don’t believe that you should stop doing what believe just because you are not great at it. The idea to stop chasing perfection is to get rid of the unnecessary pressure. If you can create without fearing the result, wouldn’t you create more? Think about being a child and how you would color just for the joy of the seeing the colors, and sing just because it was fun. We didn’t do things for the end result, but because doing it brought us joy; the picture we drew or song we made-up was a wonderful by-product. Instead of focusing on getting the finished product right, focus on the process of creating that poem or story.

How do I focus on the process and not the product?

I stopped writing with an end result in mind. I noticed that when I set out to write with the idea of “writing a children’s book about X”, I get stuck. I am so focused on making the children’s story “amazing” or “great” that I psych myself out because nothing that comes out of my head is good enough to me. However, if I start out with the intention of “telling a story about X to children”, I can get a bare-bones draft down. From this skeletal, often badly written, plot-hole riddled first draft I can then pick out the elements I need to make tell the story better on a second try. Then, maybe I do the same for a 3rd attempt. Maybe even a 4th. By letting myself focus on the story I wanted to tell, I actually tell the story. If I focus on what I hope the result will end up being (a best-selling novel, an award-winning poem, etc), I set myself up for failure from the start by trying to turn the story into what I want it to be, instead of what the story needs to be. What I want to do may be out of reach, but it doesn’t mean my story (or poem or essay) isn’t worth telling. Trying to force genius is the best way to make yourself look like a fool, but not trying at all will always mean failure.

Take this with a grain of salt.

I’m not a psychologist or a real writer. I don’t have to write to pay my rent, and I don’t even consider myself particularly talented (nevertheless, genius) in this area. I acknowledge the limitations this premise has, but I have seen benefits to my own practice. I know that it’s my fear that keeps me from telling the stories I want to tell, and writing the poems/posts I want to write. Instead of letting my fear of failure silence my pen, I tried turning my thought process around to focus on what I wanted to say, instead of trapping myself in a box on how to say it.

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