What to write about when you can’t write

If you’ve been checking in on the blog, you may notice that my posts have become few and far apart. I’ve been blogging less. This is because I’ve been wallowing through an unusually extended episode of the writer’s block.

Every time I bring myself to open a new page and start typing, I find myself lost for words. I can’t go beyond one or two paragraphs. So I shelve the project and fill my drafts with one more stillborn blog post.

So in order to hopefully climb over this seemingly insurmountable mountain, I decided to write about the mountain itself. I decided to write about my writer’s block. After all, doesn’t life often bring us to those moments where the only way over something is through it? I have decided to write my way through this inability to write.

So how come I am able to write about my struggle if my struggle is writing itself? Asking myself this question immediately led me to the first insight about this phenomenon we like to call writer’s block.

It turns out writer’s block is not the inability to write anything at all, it is simply the inability (or difficulty) to write about topics you usually write about. Writer’s block is what happens when you can no longer keep up the persona you usually put on when crafting that blog, that book, that song or that piece of poetry

Writer’s block is what happens when you can no longer keep up the persona you usually put on when crafting that blog, that book, that song or that piece of poetry

I am learning that writer’s block is a liar, and the biggest lie ever told by writer’s block is that just because you cannot write what you usually write about, or in the way you usually write, you cannot write at all.

I have noticed in myself that my writer’s block often shows up when I am undergoing some sort of existential crisis or an unexpected shift in my thinking and I feel not ready to talk about it. I have also noticed that this dreaded block tends to bubble up when I feel I can no longer write as well or as impressively as I have before. These feelings of inadequacy and incompetence often precede this writer’s block reluctance to shuffle words on the page.

These feelings of inadequacy and incompetence often precede this writer’s block reluctance to shuffle words on the page.

What this does is that it ends up leaving me paralyzed; afraid to make a move lest it be the wrong move; afraid to speak up lest I end up offending; afraid to create lest I end up building something uninspiring and unimpressive.

Writer’s block, it turns out, is often an expression of my insecurities as they take the upper hand and threaten to expose me for the fraud I often fear I am. Writer’s block is a close cousin to the impostor syndrome that often discourages many a creative soul from stepping onto the stage.

So since the only way over is through, I decided to plough through this episode; not by ignoring it and writing despite the feelings of inadequacy and lack of inspiration. I decided to work through this episode by directly confronting it, describing it, exposing it, learning from it, and in the process… hopefully… vanquishing it.

So this is my writer’s block story. I have to admit that by the time I got around to this paragraph, I had started drifting off. I almost hit pause and sent this post to draft too. So I stepped back and asked myself why this was becoming difficult to write. Why was I suddenly losing interest? Why the sudden almost overwhelming sense of discouragement?

That’s when I noticed that I had started getting sucked into the very vortex that makes writer’s block such a powerful monster — I had started giving into the temptation to be profound, to share the big insight, and land this post with a bang. I had succumbed to the very disease that had made it difficult to write in the first place. So before I give in to the temptation to have a point, I will just stop here and hit publish.

One thought on “What to write about when you can’t write

  1. I love your take on the idea that writers block might stem from insecurity – I never thought of it that way. I think it’s especially important to show up on the days when you feel uninspired or unmotivated. Often if you keep plugging away what comes up surprises you. Thanks for sharing.

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