Don’t Think: When Writer’s Block Meets Self Doubt

I have dozens of half-written blog posts that linger on my computer, posts on beautiful topics like post-graduation devastation, the insecurities that emerge in our writing practice, and divine dissatsisfaction.

I want to unleash them into the world, but these writings don’t have much soul yet. The words don’t pop from my screen – they sit there in flatness and ennui. The scathing whiteness of these pages beams holes into my pupils as I scramble for ways to save them.

I have a computer tab open which contains my horrendous retelling of an experience I had in New Mexico. When I wrote that piece, the story brimmed in my mind with suspense and build-up, a striking reflection on fear and mortality and desert stardust. But when I reread it, I realized the story is a mash up of self-righteousness and robotic retellings of events that make me sound as vivid and interesting as a thumb tack.

I flitter between computer tabs and try to hammer the words of each piece into something workable. I feel like I am clanking lava rocks and wet sticks together on my patio, determined to create the literary campfire that never starts.

(Not helping the situation is that I want everyone to love everything I write. I start to write something, and my inner people-pleaser squeals “That’s too spiritual! That’s too dark! That isn’t focused enough! That’s too self-helpish! Who do you think you are?”)

So right now I want a blank space where I can sift my thoughts and etch out a few sentences independent of anything I have ever written before. A restart. Because the moment we think we are the ones in control, whether in writing or in Life, we are doomed.

And right now we’re going to talk about writing.

When we scrunch our forehead, and try to decide “What should I say?” as if we were tapping our pencil in the margin of our algebra test, our words plunk out from the rational brain instead of from the heart. Our concepts ring flat and our words are devoid of flavor. When we try to think our way through creative writing, the words that come out sound like the wrong answer to your algebra problem, the wrong answer your teacher kindly gives you credit for because you showed your scribbly incorrect work.

Ray Bradbury puts it this way: “Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy.”

So the moment I find myself trying to conjure artistic beauty from my shrewd rational mind, I know it’s time to creatively regroup.

Humans trend towards being blocked, doubting, insecure, vulnerable, second-guessing creatures who have a hard time letting go of our stranglehold on what we think is supposed to happen. In bouts of so-called Writer’s Block, we block the infinite flow of creative ideas by engaging in these self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors.

We suffocate our own vitality when we don’t believe we’re good enough. We can’t write from the soul when all we hear is our own inner criticism. When we scratch beneath the surface of our Writer’s Block, we find lurking reasons why we aren’t writing, and they are bigger than “I just don’t feel like writing.” They are the doubts we harbor at our core about not being worthy of expressing our voice.

Writers are conduits through which an enormous creative life force funnels into the world. When we let words unfold from our unconscious and say what we are drawn to say, we have the potential to transform the world. My prayer when I sit down to write is: Let me write what needs to be written. And sometimes some terribly clunky words emerge at first. And that is the perfect place to begin.

All we have to do is get out of the way. We need to get out of the way of the incredible friendships and forks in the road and opportunities that are magnetized to us — if only we weren’t busy lamenting why nothing good ever happens to us. We need to get out of the way of the fiery and incredible love in our relationships that is pulsating beneath the surface and trying to shine through — if only we weren’t so preoccupied with being right.

And we need to get out of the way of the words that want to pour forth from us, the words that would be on the page by now if only we weren’t so hung up on pleasing our readers or sounding smart or protecting the truth. None of our best work is created through insecurity and people-pleasing… although for some of us, it may take twenty four years of people-pleasing before we start to see how futile of an effort that is.

So don’t think. An energy that is bigger than you wants to flow through you. Let it rip.

~~~

What is your writing process look like? Do you believe in Writer’s Block? When did you try to write from the head, and how did that turn out? Share your wisdom in the comments section!

When I wrote a piece on anxiety that went viral, I stopped writing for weeks because I was afraid that no one would like whatever I wrote next. Time to break through!

When I wrote a piece on anxiety that went viral, I stopped writing for weeks because I was afraid that no one would like whatever I wrote next. Time to break through!

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6 thoughts on “Don’t Think: When Writer’s Block Meets Self Doubt

  1. Pingback: Chile Peppers, Trust, and Cutting Through: On Writing my First Book | Kelsey Horton

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  4. Pingback: Starts | Barking up the Muse Tree

  5. I, like you, have so many unwritten blog posts. Scores of google docs and a few that languish as wordpress drafts. Thank you so much for your words that speak to me so much. Getting beyond self-doubt and trusting myself and my words is so important for me in my writing and beyond. Together we can find strength within 🙂

  6. Really useful post! Thx. Currently got bad Writer’s Block. I get to 10,000- 15,000 words of a story bad then the block sets in. I don’t seem to be able to get past this stage.

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