The Safety of Writer's Block

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of writer’s block lately. Yesterday , I wrote about how the Enneagram personality test gave me some clarity about my own inadequacies as a writer when it comes to the idea of writer’s block.

Seth Godin, one of my favorite writers on the web, argues that writers block is not real. Specifically he says its a “myth, a recent invention, a cultural malady.” Elsewhere he says that it is a combination of two things ( link ):

  1. Bad habits combined with
  2. Fear of what someone else who is not on the journey what they will say to you.

I definitely resonate with the fear (and probably the bad habit) reality. Fear that what I write won’t be any good. Fear that when I am starting a research project that I don’t know the end goal. Fear that what I’m writing won’t actually amount to anything. Fear that others will tell me that it is no good and I need to start over.

Writer’s block is actually a safer place to be (another insight from Godin). When you say you have writer’s block you can easily gain empathy from your peers. Yes, we’re all in this together, its a struggle, we all know how you feel. While that seems open and honest it is actually a safer space to be than to say that those 5,000 words you wrote over the past week were absolute garbage and you have to start over. Its safer than writing and publishing/turning in something and having it rejected or receiving a lower grade than you want. Writer's block is safe.

So my challenge to myself is to daily try to overcome this subtle fear that underlies the safety of writers block. For me, the fear comes from the unknown. I don’t know where I’m going. In all other aspects of life I am driven, can see the end goal, and know the next steps to take. But with many aspects of writing I am out of my comfort zone. Putting something on paper when I don’t know the direction is paralyzing for me. The only way to work through this is to sit down and write. Everyday. No matter what. It doesn’t have to be good but the only way to become better and overcome this is by doing it. Sometimes, this may take the form of writing something off topic but just to get the brain flowing and to work on the underlying issue of being stuck with so called “writers block”

If you tell me that you have writer’s block then show me all the bad writing you have done.…you actually enjoy being stuck. Its safe. - Seth Godin

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