More Writer’s Block Fixes

Life is like a novel: full of unexpected twists and irony. For example, several years ago, I wrote a series of posts on writer’s block. Through 45 years of writing,  I’d never had writer’s block, so Ten Fixes For Writer’s Block could have been arrogant nonsense. But as a creative writing teacher, I had come across so many kinds of writer’s block in my students that I felt compelled to write about ways to fix it. After all, it was my job to help young writers.

Little did I know when I was writing those fixes that one day I would need my own advice. A surprise: my younger self knew things my older self forgot. Because, yes, I have been struggling with writer’s block for a few months now. I’m not completely blocked. Obviously, writing this post proves that. Which is a relief because I really don’t know what I’d do with myself if I didn’t write, having no other hobbies except binge watching Longmire on Netflix.

(Photo credit: A&E)

For so long, I was absolutely sure that I would write until I died. I couldn’t imagine a time when I would not wake up in the morning with my current novel perking in my neocortex. That is just the way it has been for so long, I thought it would always be true. Especially when I retired from teaching. I couldn’t wait to write full time. How productive I would be! How prolific! Instead, I struggled to write and I struggled to understand why I was having to struggle. Finally I remembered a series of posts I compiled way back when I thought I’d never have a serious problem with writer’s block. Maybe I should look that up, I thought. I might learn something from myself.

Today, I checked over the list. It seems I have ALL of the ten reasons I listed. Maybe what I missed when I was busy being prolific is that writer’s block is complex and involves many moving parts, not just one thing you can tick off and be done with. I also read my advice on how to “fix” these problems and it’s solid. I should take my own advice, but first I am trying an additional experiment given to me by my awesome therapist, Dr. B.

Last session, I brought up my growing worry that I was done writing novels. In the past couple of months I had started and stopped two novels. I lacked the passion, the intrinsic motivation, the drive. It just dried up on me and I wasn’t sure why. Dr B suggested an experiment: go two weeks without working on a novel. She said something so wise “If you find yourself missing it, that will tell you something. If you find you don’t miss it, that will tell you something, too. Either way, you have more information.”

Isn’t she a genius? Because I have come to believe that there may be a time when I stop writing novels. I’m not sure when, but I can see now that day might come. That’s what the next two weeks will tell me. In the three days since Dr. B gave me this advice, I have learned one thing: I am not ready to stop writing books yet. I want to finish those two novels I started. I want to write more novels after those, too. The question remains: do I want it enough?

Here’s the irony: I found my younger self’s answer to that question embedded in the original post. I called it a “Reality Check” and went on to say “People can become blocked because they dread the time and effort involved to really make their writing shine. In that case, your writer’s block is telling you something important. You might have a bit of talent for writing, but you don’t have the passion it takes to bring that talent to the next level. And that’s okay. It’s good to know exactly why you’re blocked, what your options are, and whether you might be happier doing something else with your creative energy.”

I felt this bit of advice like a slap in the face. One thing age teaches you is that vital chemicals (hormones) deplete as you grow older. This is why older folks suffer from insomnia: their melatonin levels are low. Women in menopause lack powerful hormones that impact many areas of joyful living. Men lose testosterone. And bones become brittle because the calcium is not there anymore. What if passion is also finite? What if mine is gone forever?

I don’t really believe this. Passion is a feeling, not a hormone or a vitamin. There are ways to restore passion for writing, and I’ve found a few. There’s Dr. B’s advice, which I think could work for anyone. Julia Cameron suggests Artist Dates. Writing prompts can be can be useful. Deadlines too. NaNoWriMo is coming up in November. That’s always inspiring. Lists help. For example, I got the idea for writing this post from Molly Greene’s terrific list of 101 Fabulous Blog Topic Ideas.

I have not given up hope. I plan to rekindle my passion, and I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Meanwhile, if you are now going through a dry spell, or if you’ve had writer’s block in the past and broke through it, I’d love to hear your story.

7 Comments on “More Writer’s Block Fixes

  1. What keeps me going, Cynthia, is the promise to myself that one day I will retire from writing just like I retired from my day job. Because I think there is a beautiful art to retirement and I just found out I have another grandchild on the way! And our second son is newly married and is now hosting holidays, so I want to enjoy floating around between the families and watching them grow. In the meantime I try to balance what I love about being retired from my day job so that the writing career doesn’t destroy that. I had to learn that because I started to resent writing. I thought I worked for early retirement and this writing is robbing me of that. So I make sure I do that stuff and just write less.

    Sometimes I like to write from the heart and that takes passion. But sometimes I like to write from the head, to use my noggin, to write a sci fi short story maybe that explores a little nook of science, or to do an exercise from a writing book. Maybe try something a little different that doesn’t take passion. It’s okay to be totally analytical sometimes. And maybe do something short.

    You are super duper smart. I’d love to see anything your put your mind to. It doesn’t always have to be a gut-wrenching experience. Oh…and don’t forget to count your blog. This is wonderful writing.

    I like what you said here about hormones and vitamins versus feelings. Great insights.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nicci, thanks for that. I recently retired and maybe that’s what’s happening on an unconscious level. And congrats on being a grandma again!! That is one thing I would love to do in retirement, visit more with my family. I’m going to take a more easy-going approach to writing from now on:)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Good, Cynthia. Now is the time to revel in the things that bring you happiness. Writing is a great way to get the satisfaction that only comes from work, and now you can balance it appropriately making sure to do the things that are pure pleasure. I hope you get lots of visits with your growing family.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I find I go through periods of writer’s block if I stop reading as much fiction. I do a lot of film criticism so if I’m spending all of my time reading academic books and journals, I find I stop having as many ideas. Once I start reading fiction again it turns that side of my brain back on!

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  3. The only thing that works for me is a deadline. Even if it’s self-imposed (and they usually are). I tell everybody (long-suffering nearest & dearest, friends, acquaintances, the postman) that I’m going to finish a piece of writing on a certain date and they MUST ask me about it when they see me. The fear of social shame is usually enough to force me to sit down and produce something!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Deadlines always work for me too, even if it is just between myself and my editor. Maybe that’s the problem here. My publisher lets authors work on their own timeline so that first draft is wide open with no deadline. Even NaNoWriMo is enough of a deadline for me. I check in daily and when I do it I can’t let myself fail to meet the deadline and word count. I am signing up. Thanks Anne!

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