Lessons I Need To Remember: On Writer’s Block

I’ve had occasional spots of writer’s block, everybody does, but this semester I experienced one that I did not know how to deal with.

Late in September this writer’s block started to make its appearance. I was not only busy being stressed about having less time to get school work done, but all the sudden it seemed I had nothing to write about or when I did write it sounded like garbage. It didn’t bother me too much at first, I’ve handed papers in late before and it didn’t turn into a problem. But then it started to spread to all my classes and suddenly I had several papers that were late, it was a virus slowly killing my grade. The most I could seem to muster up was a paragraph and a comment on a blog post. I could not write about anything at great length, I felt I had bits and pieces sitting in my brain, but I couldn’t build anything with them. Even in English class where I had to write a paper about myself I was coming up with nothing, is that even possible?

Why was it so hard to write about anything?
Why didn’t anything sound right?

As time went on I became increasingly gun-shy (or is that pen-shy?) and an endeavor I once enjoyed was something I had come to really abhor. Had I become such a perfectionist that nothing I wrote was as good enough?

Steve always being the concerned mentor was helpful and honest. “What is Nike’s slogan?”, he would ask. “Just do it”, I would respond knowing all to well he was right (how annoying). I’m sure those of you who follow me on Twitter were subject to many tweets of complaining (thanks for not blocking me). The nice thing about twitter is that I could also receive helpful advice from people. For instance Sue Fernsebner pointed me to a website that contained the following quote:

“Commit yourself to the process not the project. Don’t be afraid to write badly, everyone does. Invest yourself in the lifestyle not in the particular piece of work.” -Frank Conroy

So I’ve been trying very hard to write. Even when I have felt that every sentence I was writing down was crap I’ve kept trying. Somewhere along the line I had convinced myself if it wasn’t going to be great it shouldn’t be written at all and of course that is mostly complete rubbish.

Maybe not everything I am writing is worthy of a gold star, but that isn’t the point. I should be writing for myself. If I want a random post about my love of CSI why not go ahead and do it. I can no longer just keep this blog dedicated to those “golden ideas”, I don’t want my blog to be like that at all.

No one has a perfect life and why should my blog make it seem like I think I know all the answers, I am certainly do not. I’ve just got to blog in the way that works best for me, and be ok with that.

There will be a time for posts that require a slow blogging approach and there will be time for a more “bavatuesdays” or “Bill’s Stuff” stream of thought of just getting what you need to say out there. Both foster conversations in their own way.

Just blog it.

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6 Responses to “Lessons I Need To Remember: On Writer’s Block”


  1. 1 Steve Rosenbaum November 18, 2007 at 11:58 pm

    I’ve been a writer more more than 25 years. One of the things that helps is to learn to write at the speed you think or at least the speed you can type. I learned this by working on a job that required me to write for 8 hours a day for 3 years. It’s a great cure for writers block.

    Other than that you might talk into a tape recorder to get your thoughts down and not worry about crafting literature.

  2. 2 Dr. Bad Ass November 19, 2007 at 9:28 am

    I always tell myself and my students, when suffering from this kind of writer’s block, that the source is really our expectations. We can’t write because we’re afraid that what we’re writing is crappy. So I say, just go with that flow. I title what I’m writing “Crappy Draft” and my goal is just to get something down on paper that I can then improve. So I’ll work away on getting my crappy draft finished . . . and then it becomes not so crappy. I’ve seen this work with many students who are allowing their “editing head” to interfere with their “creating head” so to speak.

  3. 3 sehauser November 19, 2007 at 11:36 pm

    @ Steve & @ Dr. Bad Ass
    Thanks for the advice! Using a recorder could definitely be a great way to just get what I want to say out there. I also love the idea of calling it a “crappy draft”, it gives me permission to write as badly as I want to!

  4. 4 Jeff November 21, 2007 at 11:19 am

    I’ve always had the worst trouble starting to write. Often I find that once I actually start it gets much easier. One thing that works for me is to write little “chunks” of a paper ahead of time. I keep a word doc for each paper or project and whenever I have an idea or thought related to it, I just write a quick paragraph or two (or maybe just a sentence or two), not worrying about where it needs to fit or even if I’ll end up using it. Just the process of writing those small ideas down gets me thinking about the paper as a whole, even if I’m not actively focused on it most of the time.

    Now,eventually you have to figure out how to fit that all in, but somehow, it’s easier to begin the formal process of writing a paper if you already have a number of chunks written….

  5. 5 Samantha November 27, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    Shannon,

    I too can certainly relate with this kind of writer’s block. Like Jeff, starting out is always the hardest part for me, and sometimes it feels like I’ll never get that introduction down on paper. I tend to be a pretty harsh critic of my own work, and so sometimes I get into the bad habit of judging each and every word. The problem is that by doing this, I lose any flow I made have had. I get so focused on making my ideas sound pretty that I forget what I was trying to say in the first place.

    I find that the more frequently I write, the easier it is to just put the words down on paper without judging them. When I give into the perfectionism and get frustrated–when I stop writing because nothing is coming out as I envisioned–that’s when the block builds. I feel the thoughts and ideas floating around in my head but, like you said, they are fragmented and incomplete, and I can’t articulate them. Pushing through and forcing myself to keep going is crucial. When all else fails, I talk through my ideas with someone…in everyday conversation I want to express an idea rather than speak elegantly.

    Your slogan of “Just blog it” is perfect. What a lesson.

  6. 6 Steve Rosenbaum November 27, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    Some writing styles are a lot easier to write than others. I’ve found that people actually like a style that is similar to the way you talk rather than carefully crafted. If you’re not trying to create great literature or poetry, try just writing the way you speak.


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