Maybe you’ve seen it in other writers. Something about them collapses. No longer interested in writing, they carry a defeated attitude. They seem pessimistic. Their ideas feel heavy and bogged down and even the act of writing is seen as a chore and an obligation.
I’ve been there.
There are lots of ways to get past this. Often it’s a matter of asking the right question that unlocks what is going on.
Maybe it’s not the right project for right now or maybe I have a limiting belief that’s getting in the way. Or maybe my problem is not about the writing at all and my love of writing is taking the hit for something else in my life that I need to look at or work on, maybe something happening in a relationship or financially or with a living situation.
It could even just be the weather.
A bad burrito.
No sense making things more complicated than they need to be.
If it’s simple, let it stay simple and see if you can solve it from there.
So what if writing really is the problem?
The belief: You don’t want to write, but you have to.
You don’t want to write for writing’s sake, you want what will come when the writing is finished.
You just want to get through the writing.
Too often writing is seen as a chore or as a means to an end. Unfortunately this attitude leads us to write in a way that is closed to inspiration. It’s like strip mining the imagination. It depletes of us of our natural energy rather than being revitalizing.
Yes, you are writing because you want to make something with your words. Writing is a way of making a record of thoughts and feelings and actions, and it is a lot more besides. It is also a performance, something that you show up for and are likely to surprised by the longer you keep at it.
Writing can be a way of deepening your relation with yourself and honing your natural voice. It can also be a practice for achieving greater clarity and transparency with your thoughts and feelings.
Freewriting especially is rich with the potential for self discovery. At the get-go, freewriting requires a basic level of self-acceptance, curiosity, and willingness to arrive at an unexpected outcome.
When you write, you write because you want to write something. In that sense, you’re driving for the end product: The statement. The essay. The three-book series.
But at some level it is also true that you just want to write. To write in a way that is entirely free from any expectation of content.
Take a moment to see whether at least some part of you is interested in showing up just for the sake of the simple practice of writing.
“Just writing” means finding satisfaction, challenge, engagement in the act of doing it.
That doesn’t need to be the only way that you write. It doesn’t have to be an either/or situation. You can do it both for its own sake and to produce something.
It’s that way about many things. Take sex for example.
Sex is not merely for procreation. Sex is only barely for procreation.
Procreation is the unintended material side effect of sex.
Sex is part of what it means to be a healthy adult. You can do it to cultivate energy. For transcendent intimacy.
In a similar vein, the goal is to find satisfaction in your writing.
Not by psyching yourself up and saying “I’m going to find satisfaction in this, dag nabbit.” But by making space for enjoyment.
Make space from outside pressures and demands
Find the aspects of outside pressures and demands that actually thrill you. Something about you really likes a challenge.
Give yourself treats
Maybe think of this as the inner child approach. The point is that there can be really basic things that we can give ourselves that will appeal to our desire to work hard and then rest and enjoy a reward.
So for example, maybe you want to treat yourself with dinner and a movie with someone hot. It’s only going to work if you actually only follow through with the treat when you hit your word count. Honor system.
Make your environment awesome
I have a thing for the tactile. I like typing on some keyboards and I can’t stand typing on others. It feels good and so it makes me eleven percent happier. It’s well worth the fifty bucks or whatever.
Other things like a swanky desk, a nice view, a comfy setup, a nice cup of hot whatever, they can all help. In the line of keeping things simple, what if this is all that it takes to get you past the little hurdle?
Having a non-awesome environment should not be seen necessarily as a limiting factor, because if you want to write something, then it’s about getting that something done, no matter what. But to the extent that you also want to enjoy your writing, it’s not going to hurt to indulge, is it?
Writers’ indulgences tend to be pretty basic compared to maybe someone who makes electronic music, say. That stuff can get expensive. Gear hunting can be a black hole. Writer’s gear can be simple, so if it strikes your fancy, see if there is something cheap and easy that can give you a bit of a boost.
All the magic happens as you go
It’s not just wishful thinking or inspirational nonsense. The journey really is about the process, not the destination.
You probably want to have a clear destination, but you definitely need to take pleasure in the process. Otherwise, why bother showing up?
Too much of the stuff in this world is just filler. People have filler jobs that they toil away at. They know they aren’t adding value. They’re just a cog in a meaningless wheel. But they do it because there is a paycheck and some vacation time.
I’m not saying that people should try to be heartfelt at meaningless jobs. I would rather everyone be real with themselves.
What would happen if nobody worked at a job that they truly believed was meaningless? What would the world be like if even ten percent of the people you met actually showed up to every day of their life with the same eagerness and vigor as when on vacation?
Similarly, what’s the big picture for you here?
Use the big picture to get you to dive into the challenge. The problem so often is that writers stagnate when they are not writing. If only something could kick them into gear and jump-start them into writing mode, the wheels will begin to turn again and all sorts of beauty and wonder can unfold.
Even if the discoveries aren’t big ones, just the little ones that happen along the way.
When you have a moment in which things click, you figure things out, and it could have happened no other way — it all feels perfect, enlivening, compelling.
The stuff that keeps you glued to your keyboard.
You may start with nothing more than a basic sketch for what you want to write. Maybe you have a nagging sense of duty, even dread — that you need to write something.
And then you start doing it, and magic happens.
When you are open to finding it, it’s easier for magic to happen.