Chipping Away at the Writer’s Block

“Blank 21”

That’s the name of this file as I begin to write. It doesn’t have a title yet. It’s just the number that comes up from the word processing program. My brain hasn’t gotten that far. It may take a bit before any organizing principle presents itself and claims that line. But the fact is, I have to write—something.

Several recent conversations are on my mind right now.

One was with a good friend who also does a good bit of writing. He had complimented me on something that I had written and was encouraging me to keep after it. He has some contacts that he thinks could be of use for me to find a broader audience. He thinks what I’ve done is worthy of it. It was affirming, and yet also a bit unnerving. I could hear some of the good in it, but my inner voice was also chastising myself for not having done more.

Then there was a request from another writer who was feeling a bit ‘stuck’ in his latest project. He sent me some draft work of a big project that he’s undertaken. He was feeling as if it was a struggle to get to work and just get words on the page. He wasn’t sure if he was facing ‘writer’s block’ or something else. In the same way that my friend had encouraged me to keep going, I offered him some words of affirmation and suggestions about how he might keep the momentum moving in the right direction.

A third was with my son who was getting on to me for not having posted anything recently. My family knows that writing is healthy for me. It’s something that brings forth insights and instruction, if for no one else then at least for myself. If I’m not posting something, then that creative process is not taking place. Perhaps he was telling me that I was dealing with my own ‘writer’s block’ in a not-so-subtle way. I am a serious introvert, and we joke about how I “run out of words” to speak on days when I’m in the public eye. But they all know that if I’m not writing out words in the quiet of my den, then something needs to be addressed.

So this morning I responded to friend number two above. Just a couple of emails to encourage him and offer some feedback about what I had read thus far. It was nothing for public consumption, but it was words getting out of my head and on to the page.

And now I’m sitting here with my morning coffee and writing something of more substance that others might read. I’m pushing my ‘writer’s block’ around with some energy and effort.

I’m doing what we all have to do some times—listening to my own advice. It seems so much easier to give it than to receive it. There is something gratifying in thinking that others would turn to me for guidance or wisdom or counsel or whatever it is I can offer. Truth be told, I usually have no problem offering something when approached for help. I like to help—it’s part of who I am and what I do with life.

This time helping others is perhaps also helping me. The words are starting to flow. They may not be the best, but they are at least on the page (or screen). They might not be as refined as I would like, but at least they are moving. They are not earth-shattering, but at least they are chipping away.

Sculptures take a while to create. Lots of little taps to form the overall work of art. Sometimes writing is like that. A few words here and there, a few items that present themselves for consideration, a few paragraphs that have a little power. But it’s always a work in progress.

So what advice did I offer. What advice do I need myself?

First, sometimes it is worthwhile to create a list of things that could be written about. It may not be polished prose, but a list of possible scenes or topics or stories can prime the creative pump. I find that writing out a list is its own form of creative mental exercise.

Second, write consistently. A few hundred words everyday is probably better than a weekend worth of hoping for hours of uninterrupted creative time. Again, chipping away is not a bad way to work.

Third, write for yourself as much as anyone else. My family knows I need to write for my own mental and spiritual health. I may have others who are eager to hear what I have to say, even if I’m not all that satisfied with how I say it; but it is important to be writing even if no one is reading.

That’s about it for today. A few hundred words, a few ideas. Chipping away. At least for today I’ve heeded my own advice and pushed the ‘writer’s block’ a little bit.

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