What do you do when you’re write blocked? You quit. It’s okay; I absolve you and give you permission to stop. In fact, I offer this advice to anyone who is creatively stumped.
Here’s the key to getting yourself past the place of frustration so bad it hurts: Quitting and giving up are NOT the same thing. When you quit something, you have stopped for a set amount of time that is up to you to determine. For example, when you quit smoking, hopefully you’ve chosen to do so forever. But, when you quit writing, you’ve done it with the understanding that you’ll return some day when the mood strikes you, the muse returns, the distractions are handled, etc., etc.
Giving up is more dangerous. To give up is to abandon all hope, and the journey back is a much more difficult struggle. It’s not impossible, but it takes a lot of soul searching and the right sort of people in your life to encourage you in the way you need to be encouraged. Giving up usually means you’ve hit rock bottom.
Now, I don’t mean to scare you with this, because even when you’ve hit rock bottom, the rock at the bottom makes a fabulous foundation from which to plant your feet, bend your knees, and spring upward toward the light again.
The point of this explanation is to keep you from reaching Giving Up by enjoying the freedom of Quitting. Recognizing the signs that you’re struggling in your creative life is the first step to keeping you from nose diving into the despair.
I know this because I’ve been there, and if I can keep one person from experiencing the awful feeling of “I have nothing left to give,” then with tears in my eyes I can say what I went through was worth it. (SIDE NOTE: I’ll probably be embarrassed beyond words when this post publishes because I’m not the opening up type, and this is my deepest secret revealed in my Writer’s Soul series so far!)
The first thing I would suggest based on what I’ve learned from Heather Seller’s book, Page After Page, is to simplify. In my case, all I need to write is a pen or pencil and some paper. I have fought the simplicity of this suggestion, which is what landed me in a heap of trouble, by lamenting everything I don’t have. Mrs. Sellers kindly pointed out what I do have: Pen or pencil, paper, the desire to write, knowledge of the things I want to write about.
You’ve probably heard it said, “Write what you know,” which is countered by, “Write what you want to know about.” Mrs. Sellers goes one better and says, “Write what other people want to know about you.” (Paraphrased from several paragraphs in Chapter Four of Page After Page.)
My goodness, how liberating. This means that you have an interesting tale to tell, and it should be written in detail as only you can tell it. Stop believing that it’s boring or won’t measure up to some arbitrary standard and, to borrow a line from Nike, Just Do It! Write what you want to write. Write what you want to read. Do it now without over analyzing.