Hello my fellow bloggers and blog-lovers. Whether you write, sing, teach, dance, garden, or paint, we’re all creators in some way or another. I’m sure my fellow creators can relate to the impulsive, metaphysical muse that calls us to create out of the blue. It’s a fantastic feeling. When you start creating and keep on creating. But those involuntary instances of inspiration happen far too few to be a professional creator.
Recently a book I read called “Shipping Creative Work” by Seth Godin shifted my perspective.
As a writer, I’ve often contemplated the question, “Should I force myself to write?” If you’ve been around for a while, you might remember an article I wrote about it here a year ago. I want to have a healthy relationship with writing, but I also want to create on a scheduled basis.
Historically, I have put off writing until I am in the right mindset, until I have an evening with no plans, until I’ve finished everything I needed for the day, until I have an idea that’s good enough. You can see the dilemma. Professional writers don’t wait to be inspired. They don’t wait for a muse. They write regardless of their mood, because your work is too important not to prioritize it.
Remove (the need for) your muse. Your work will thank you for it.
In his book, Godin shares hundreds pieces of advice to help us creators stop procrastinating, stop making excuses, start believing in ourselves, and to start shipping our work. “Your work is too important to be left to how you feel today.” And I’ll paraphrase another quote, ‘We don’t do the work because we feel like doing it, we feel like doing the work because we do it.’
This book has shifted my perspective on writing from procrastination, fear, and angst, to a mindset of loving the process and not focusing on the outcome. Godin received a solid 5 stars from me on my Goodreads. (Side bar: if you have a Goodreads account let’s be friends — @elle jayne) It’s a must-read for any creator looking to hone in on their craft.
Here’s to shipping our creative work!
Do you experience “writer’s block?” What helps you move past procrastination? What’s your biggest challenge with creating consistently?
I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this intriguing issue all creators face.
You can rad my personal blog at http://www.poemsandprose.travel.blog
49 thoughts on “There is no such thing as writer’s block”
Perennial question I guess but definitely worth an ongoing conversation. For a few reasons. Firstly, I find that context in which we live, work, write is shifting fast. So the answers of yesterday may not always be the answers we can hang on to. Secondly, people write but not everyone that writes sees/considers themselves as writer. This may be a subtle attempt to give our selves an escape route when our writing does not meet our own standards. E. L. Jayne, you mention confidence and self belief. Hard to find anyone who writes that does not at times think about that. But, I would say, that may be a larger issue and I would recommend reading a great piece by an essayist (and psychoanalyst) Adam Phillips’ titled “Against Self-criticism”. Easy to find, the essay is published on London Review of Books site and there’s also a great YouTube video of his lecture.
My personal approach is to write every day. I start the day with jotting things down. A lot of it not shared on any of my blogs but but I keep the process alive. In the end, I end up with a few good pieces every month.
I read a few books at any given time, I read widely, I spent a lot of time thinking about things I read. I test ideas and then when it comes to writing, it somehow comes together.
Writer’s block is not a particularly good description of what happens when we feel we cannot get the writing process going. I get the common meaning of the phrase but the process behind that ‘block’ is actually quite interesting I think.
Good piece E.L. Jayne. Keep it up.
I totally agree with you about keeping the writing process alive by making writing every day a habit. I’m currently working on that.
Hi Jelenko, thanks for the great recommendation on confidence, I’ll be sure to check it out. And that’s a great point… what has worked yesterday won’t necessarily work tomorrow. But keeping up the process and evolving with it is important. I also make it a goal to write every day. I normally jot things down throughout my day and I’ll turn those into lengthier pieces at nighttime. I find I’m more creative at night.
I also agree writer’s block doesn’t seem to encapsulate everything I am feeling when I can’t get myself to write. Sometimes it’s a fail to start, lack of motivation, lack of plan of how to articulate, etc. Again, it differs from day to day. Thanks for reading and wishing you the best of luck with your writing process! Cheers, E.L.J.
All the best E.L. Jayne
I’m guilty of most of these things 🤣. Sometimes I get that urge to write as many things as I can but then my head is empty. And most times, I just wait for the inspiration up until now. I don’t think it has anything to do with professionalism,as you said, we’re all unique.
This applies to our work. We have different ways of working which fits our schedule and every other thing. Personally, I believe if I force myself to write, it’d come out as rubbish.
Wonderful post though 😊. Glad to know your point of view.
Hi Ay, most times I find myself waiting for inspiration, too. I’ve felt a natural hand at writing my whole life, so when it comes to sitting down and “forcing” myself to write, that feels very unnatural. But then if you compare it to sports, you don’t wait until the soccer ball starts juggling itself if you want to learn, you put on your cleats, go in the backyard, and start practicing. I guess it’s the same with writing, and that’s what I’m aspiring to do more of now. Thank you for reading!
Really good explanation. I guess it requires determination.
thanks for reading!
There have been times when I haven’t been able to put down one word, but I don’t think of it as ‘writer’s block’. Other things on my mind are what is stopping me from writing. As for my muse: Some days are a struggle, while other days are not. However, I can’t consider that an active or inactive muse.
I think that’s a great awareness you have with your writing. Some days are a struggle, other days are inherently not. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong, it just is what it is. Learning how to work with that is what sets writers apart from great writers.
I don’t believe in writer’s block. I think there will be times when you don’t feel inspired or when the well of good content feels like it has run dry. But you’ll always be able to keep the writing muscles moving if you allow yourself to write badly from time to time.
I agree, allowing myself to write “bad” or sometimes even abominable allows me to start writing and start that creative process. It seems counterintuitive but writing bad helps me to unlock my genius! Thanks for reading 🙂
I have often thought that we should rename writer’s block as writer’s paralysis. That is because what people usually assume to be a block is caused more from a paralysis both external and internal stressors that make one believe that they are stuck at the point that they are at. Once the person overcomes this paralysis for any reason, then they are able to advance their writing.
I completely agree, it’s not a lack of inspiration, but it’s a lack of effort to open yourself up to that inspiration. Whenever I give myself a little extra “push” to start writing, I never fail to find my flow and feel inspired. It really energizes me to realize this and I’m excited to see the work I can accomplish with this new mindset. Thanks for reading! 🙂
I used kindle unlimited but I’m sure I can find the book there as well. I’ve recently put myself on a deadline for writing blog posts and I love that it gives me a sense of pride when I’ve finished.
I couldn’t find it for free on Kindle, so I just checked it out from my local library. It’s nice to read a physical book every so often, although I’m beginning to prefer my Kindle so I can read while I’m walking on the treadmill. It sounds like you’ve got a great schedule and I hope you enjoy the book when you can get your hands on it!
I live in a really small town with 750 people in it that’s why I opt to have Kindle unlimited lol but that’s OK if I want to buy it I can!
Its about 200 tips in paragraph form about writing and it really helped me!
That’s amazing!! I’ll definitely look it up!
I admire your discipline, EL, and I always enjoy your posts. However, I am retired and have no desire to become a professional writer at this point in my life. I write poems when I feel like it. When I try to write when I don’t feel inspired, I usually hate what I have written. I do better by writing when waking from sleep or from lucid dreams. I keep a file of ideas jotted down, rough drafts, ideas, and/ or memories that wake me up. I take them out and work when I feel like writing, sometimes in the middle of the night or at times when I have to wait ( I Hate to wait! )
Hi Cheryl, thank you for your comment, I always love to hear what you have to say. I think your awareness around your specific goals is key here. I feel like we share the same habits with writing… it comes naturally to us and we have a good relationship with it throughout the day to jot down notes or ideas when they come up.
The only difference is that if I am wanting to make a career out of it, I can’t simply wait to be inspired. I’ll find inspiration every day and jot it down, but only take the time to make a piece out of it once a week. To be a professional writer I’m going to have to dedicate more time to it.
Thanks for your thoughts and I hope you have a great week 🙂 <3E
Thanks for the push. I’m mailing chapter one today!
Look at you go, congratulations on taking the next step!
Great post, E.L. Reminds of the quote from Madeleine L’Engle, “Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it.”
Yes, even if I’m not feeling in the mood, whenever I give myself a little “push” to sit down and write, and I always find inspiration. Definitely something I am continuing to work on. Thanks for sharing the quote 🙂
I have 2 sites; my first one is about animals, my animals that I love and know all about, so I don’t generally get writer’s block. But my other site is for my husband’s business, which I’m not as knowledgeable about as he is. However I still faithfully force myself to write. Sometimes I have to do a lot of research and talking to my husband about his work, but it helps us stay close.
I love that you have 2 avenues of writing, one for your personal life with your love for animals, and then one that takes a little more research and benefits your husband’s business. I also write professionally for my job, and then I write poetry and blog posts just for fun. I’ve experienced “writer’s block” in both of these avenues, but since reading this book and shifting my mindset I’ve actually felt a lot more free to write. Wishing you all the best this 2022 and thank you for reading:) <3E
Thank you for sharing your insights with us regarding the infamous issue of writer’s block. The book that you mentioned sounds very interesting. Personally, I found that a relate point I read many years ago about writing–especially longer projects–held great value. I read that it was wise to just allow the writing to come–to take of the critical perspective that is often seeking that perfect first page or first chapter. Instead, we were to just keep on commiting to perhaps 1000 words/day. Stack up the pages, or word count in a file; and at the end of three months, we have content that with which we can work. It worked…at least for me.
I’ll be looking forward to your next post! 🙏
Hi R. Arthur, wow, that’s very admirable of you to commit to writing 1000 words per day. May I ask the topic you were writing about? And were you able to do this adjacent to your full-time job or was this your full-time job? In my dream life I’d like to be an author but I realize it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to get there. It’s great to hear success stories like yours, thanks for reading and for sharing!
The advice that I read really worked for me. Now that doesn’t mean that my success at publishing came, at least in the way that I originally desired. The manuscripts, however, continued to flow. Another piece of advice that I read comes from Ernest Hemingway. He said, basically: “Leave something in the well.” That means to commit to writing a set amount of words each day (and yes, I did, while working at my work as a paramedic–not every day, but most) and to leave the plot at a point where you can pick it up….and continue to run.
I hope that some of these pointers will help you along your way as a writer!
Such a great quote from Hemingway himself, thanks for sharing that. I never quite thought about it that way, leaving something in the well to make it easier to pick back up. I think I do this sometimes but then others I write in a frenzy until I get the idea out of my mind and onto paper. Consciously thinking about that tip though would help me commit to writing every day. Thank you!
It sure is an interesting question that you pose! Writer’s block and what stops us from being consistent and writing? Is it that I fear I will not be able to put my words across, that there is already so much written and why would anybody want to read what I may write? Shouldn’t it just be that I write because I simply want to? Or is there always a sense of validation that we inherently seek?
Those questions all hit the nail on the head for me! For me it’s a fear I won’t be able to express how I’m feeling, that it’s not worth anyone’s time, or that it could always be better. I love writing and do it mainly for myself, but also as a sense of purpose and almost as a rite of passage in humanity. I’m making a lot of progress and hoping you are too. Thanks for sharing those great questions, best of luck to you 🙂 <3E
That’s wonderful Jayne. I think we all love being appreciated, that’s inherent and may be we seek a kind word from people who matter. I do think that it isn’t a bad thing and equate it to feedback, a door to discussion.
Then again, I don’t want to be someone who writes to fit the bill, to write only what is expected out of me (as Joe from Little Women had expressed). I am so happy to hear that your writing is for your own self and well as has the sense of purpose. That sure is the best combination 🙂
I agree, it’s the difficult balance of writing for yourself but also writing something that can mean something to someone else too. Then again, it’s not a zero sum game and you can do both at the same time, or both at different times. Thanks again for sharing and wishing you luck on your writing journey 🙂
I agree and don’t think seeking feedback and or appreciation is a bad thing. Connection is a valid part of our hierarchy of needs. Joe from Little Women has a great point. For me it’s about balancing my writing with a message unconventional yet still relatable. All the best to you. 🙂
You are right Jayne 🙂 You absolutely are.
I guess there are just times I’m not feeling creative then… which unfortunately is a lot lately 🙁
Hey there Silversky, I have been in your shoes. Sometimes there are waves of inspiration, sometimes there are waves of despair with nothing to write about. Don’t let it get to you too much, and try to ride out those tough waves. You got this! Something that helps me is just starting, free writing whatever is on my heart with no expectations and going from there. Best of luck to you 🙂 <3E
You may be right! Sometimes life gets in the way of writing! I have so many things in the back of my mind that is clammering to be the first to get out that it will take to the end of my life to get them all out.
“I have put off writing until I am in the right mindset, until I have an evening with no plans, until I’ve finished everything I needed for the day, until I have an idea that’s good enough”. This is precisely my current dilemma. I’ve also decided to destroy the writer’s block mentality and just cultivate the mentality of habitual writing, inspiration or not. Thanks for the post.
As a new blogger, I found this very helpful advice. There are so many unhelpful thought patterns that can stop us. The one I struggle most with is “everything you write is obvious, and no one needs to read it” The answer, as you point out, is simply to write anyway. Thanks for the encouraging words.
Hello there, and thank you for the book recommendation! I believe the author is right, after all, writing needs to be scheduled like any other activity. I am also on goodreads, I am marimeia, going to follow you! 🙂
Here’s my URL
Thanks for the book recommendation! I have a tendency to write last, close that low position of priorities where my self-care lives. Ack! I was the same way in high school art class! I argued that I needed to be inspired, while my teacher said, “Paint or fail.” Hehe. For me, it’s a personality trait to hate being scheduled and to love spontaneity and flexibility. I have had to learn to live with myself! The result is poor productivity, for sure. I just finished a novel I began ten years ago! However, my family is healthy and strong in relationship skills. My house and garden are in pretty good shape. My career went well. So, I won’t complain! I go to sleep every night asking God to help me write tomorrow. This is much akin to my prayer to help me lose weight and exercise. Oh, well, we press on. 😏