Thursday, November 10, 2011

Writer's Block

I'll admit it, I'm nervous. I've been asked to join a group of funny, articulate women in creating this blog. I've very much enjoyed the first three posts, all of which were about heartfelt topics such as family, self-image, and human connections. After reading those, I thought, "Maybe I should save that post about the origin of ketchup for another week."

But when I sat down and tried to think of a Meaningful Topic for my first post, I drew a blank. This happened several evenings afterward too, resulting in me getting more and more nervous that I wouldn't think of anything meaningful at all. But finally, I had to stop and laugh at myself for conjuring all this pressure out of nowhere. And that made me recall my experience with writer's block.

It's hard to describe writer's block without resorting to overly dramatic similies: "it's like losing an arm," or "It's like losing your sense of smell." Suffice to say it was one of the most depressing periods of my adult life. In order to write at all, I had to force every single word onto the page. Not surprisingly, my prose became flat and lifeless.

Finally, my frustration reached such a point that I decided to give up... but not on writing. Instead, I gave up on expectations. In other words, I gave myself permission to be terrible. So I started writing a story for of crazy characters, improbable plot developments and hideous cliches. It was pretty bad, but it made me smile. It let writing be fun again. And finally, the writer's block went away.

I learned something important from that experience: it's sometimes okay to give up. Don't let self-inflicted pressure choke the joy from your writing. Instead of searching hard for emotion and trying to force out just the right phrase, give yourself permission to be silly and meaningless. Stop trying to write and just write. Sure, your words might turn out to be ridiculous. Or they could end up having more meaning than you expected.

You might just get a blog post out of it.


  1. Awesome post. That is such great advice about giving yourself permission to be awful, silly, and meaningless. I'll definitely use it next time I get stuck.

    Sometimes I feel a lot of pressure to be brilliant, so I can get publish that it is easy to forget that if you aren't having fun, chances are your readers aren't either.

    Can't wait to hear about th orgins of ketchup. :)

  2. Oh so true about expectations. It's so like me to freeze up like that, too. I love your solutions.

    Very fine post.

  3. I think you make such a great point about keeping writing fun. We do it for the love of it, and then we pile expectations on ourselves and take the fun away - which defeats both the writing and the writer.

    The origins of ketchup, huh? Can't wait for that one :)

  4. Sometimes writing through writers block is like treading through ketchup.

    Speaking of ketchup...

  5. I completely agree with you on the benefits of allowing yourself to be silly and have fun. I think too many people feel they have to always be "grown up" and serious. For me, creativity and silliness kind of go hand in hand. Great post, but now I really want to know about the origin of ketchup!

  6. Sabrina! It's a blast from your past, an old writer pal from Laramie. So cool to have found you here again. Good advice for tackling writer's block! Any advice for tackling reviser's block?? grin


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