The Five Reasons I Am No Longer Afflicted By Writer’s Block
They can be your five reasons, too.
1. I don’t censor.
Censorship means judgment, and judgment implies that you are analyzing your work to ensure that it is suitable for readership/publication. While you may intend to have your work read or published, censorship during the process of writing will prevent you from writing anything.
It’s impossible for me to write and judge my writing simultaneously. When I’m censoring myself, I immediately notice—I’ll spend precious minutes on one sentence, working and reworking it before I move on to repeat the same miserable process—and then eventually scrap the whole paragraph.
You can’t make your work “good” before your work is even completed. This is the reason why there are first drafts, second drafts, and final drafts. Before you have any draft, however, you have to get your words down on paper. So, commit to putting words down on paper, even if your inner censor believes that they’re absolute garbage.
Even if you write 500 words that necessitate heavy editing later, it’s better than sitting in front of a blank page, wishing you were doing anything else.
2. I practice Morning Pages.
“Morning pages” is a habit coined by author Julia Cameron, a prolific writer responsible for the groundbreaking book The Artist’s Way. In The Artist’s Way, Cameron details instructions for a practice in which she wakes up every morning and fills three pages of her journal with words. The words don’t have to be profound or even make sense—in fact, if you want to fill three pages of a journal with the word “poop,” this is still considered an effective use of this method.
The purpose of morning pages is to unclog the morning funk that often settles in our brains and prevents us from having a productive, creative day. By clearing out all anxiety, worries, or even ideas first thing in the morning, this creates a space and clarity that follows you throughout the day.
I started morning pages as an assignment for an occupational therapy class at USC, and within three days I realized that this practice has unlimited potential for cracking open any writer or entrepreneur’s creativity. Not only did I begin to flesh out previous ideas that had only been inklings in those early morning pages, I also found myself wanting to write again—a desire that had been lost to me for over a decade. By the end of the week, I’d brainstormed countless ideas. Two weeks in, I’d developed a much healthier relationship with my censor.
I kept morning pages up for months until I felt like I no longer needed them. Still, every now and then I start my day with morning pages, particularly if I am planning to tackle something that I feel anxious about. The practice leaves me with clarity and motivation every time.
3. I am brutally honest with myself.
I used to want to write a book.
I’d sit in front of my laptop and make some progress—I’d push through chapter after chapter—and then never return to finish the project. In some instances I’d make it quite far, but when I re-read what I’d written, I felt like something important was missing that I could never quite place.
After some brutal introspection, I realized that I didn’t actually want to write a book. What I wanted was to be a writer, and I thought that writing a book would make me one. Do you see the difference?
Wanting to be a writer and writing a book are two very different things. Rather than take the approach that was true to my heart and just write whatever I wanted for the hell of it, I spent months wracking my brain to create something I thought an audience might like, and then failing to produce something that I liked.
It’s critical to know your “why” when you’re approaching any creative endeavor. If you want to write, then write. Write what you love, write what you know, and write what challenges and inspires you. If you set the time aside to do this but then find that you’re a lump on a log in front of your computer, unable to produce anything (or the process is just painful and unpleasant) then it’s time to revisit your “why.”
Maybe you don’t want to write. Maybe what you actually want is to be your own boss, on your own time. Maybe you want to work from home. Maybe you want passive income. Maybe writing sounds like the perfect way to bring all of these things to fruition, but it may not be the thing that resonates with you. That’s okay, and the sooner you realize it, the better.
Side hustles are all the rage these days, but it’s far more lucrative to find an activity that empowers and excites you than it is to select something because it sounds “easy enough.” Doing something joylessly is never easy. Find your why, and if a love of writing isn’t it, save yourself the struggle and move toward what you love instead.
4. I don’t do it for the money.
I would love to make a living from writing, but I know that if I reverse-engineer my love of writing in the hopes of forcing it to subsidize my living expenses, I will come to hate it.
I write because I can’t not write. I write as an art form, a spiritual practice, and as a form of self-examination. I also write because I’m good at it—I write clearly and quickly, and I find that I can communicate ideas better through the written word than I can in verbal conversation.
If “the reasons I write” are a pie chart, then “enjoyment” and “skill” fill nearly the entire pie. Potential for earning money is merely a sliver of that pie, as it should be. What happens when when the biggest piece of our pie is “earning money?” We burn out.
Intrinsic motivation is critical in any creative enterprise. If we are being transactionally creative, meaning that we are doing X to achieve Y, the creative process becomes very mechanical. While math, logic, and reason have their place in daily life and thought, they tend to undermine creativity. Creativity requires passion, inspiration, and intrinsic enjoyment to truly be of value. You can use logic to establish discipline in your creative process, but you can’t use logic to actually produce creativity. It simply doesn’t work that way.
If you are writing to earn money, try to separate the dollar signs from your enjoyment of the actual writing process itself. Let money be the cherry on top of a piece well-written, rather than the sole motivation for your piece. Don’t become too obsessive about writing to please an audience or “get views.” Where possible, try to write about things you know and love.
This will ensure that every time you sit down to write, you won’t have to struggle—you can simply tap into your breadth of experience and let your already-existing insight flow.
5. I connect it to my life’s purpose.
One time, during the throes of a magic mushroom trip, I asked the universe what the heck I was supposed to be doing with my life. I had a journal in my lap and a colorful pen in my hand, and seconds later I found myself scrawling out the following sentence:
“Write the wisdom down.”
I spent the next undeterminable length of time staring at those words with eyes wide as saucers, coming to the realization that my love of writing wasn’t just a happy accident: it was deeply connected to my life’s purpose.
I have a long history of reading and writing, and have discovered many of my greatest insights through the written word. When I look back over the course of my life—particularly at my childhood—I can see that writing has always been a central component of my destiny. This understanding makes it easy for me to devote what others might consider an obscene amount of time each week to honoring the art of writing, and if I ever find my love of the process beginning to fade, I will adjust my time dedicated to the craft accordingly.
Ultimately, successful writing shouldn’t be about finding “hacks” to force oneself to produce creative content.
You are not a factory intended to pump out creative content on command. Your creativity will not likely become a hot commodity if it was produced through misery and frustration. It is much more likely (possibly inevitable) that you find success by enjoying the process, being honest about why you’re in it, and writing from the heart.
If there is a mathematical equation for success, it’s this:
enjoyment + skill = success.
Now go find that thing you love.