Writer’s block is more closely related to unreasonably high standards than it is to bouts of utter blankness of thought. I mean, the words are always there, right? They haven’t squealed out of the driveway in your car. They’re half stuck in the ground just waiting to be unearthed, polished, and constructed into the storied chapters of your skyscraping novel, or thatched into the loose-leaf roof that tops your poem’s humble hut.
Imagine a plumber stepping away from a flooded sink, yanking his pants back into place, and attributing his work stoppage to “plumber’s block.” How ridiculous? That would never fly. So how do writers get away with it?Would it be appropriate for firefighters, dentists, or surgeons to halt midway through dousing flames, yanking teeth, and slicing abdomens, so that they could return to their task once refreshed and fully inspired? No, they find a way to overcome obstacles and that’s why they succeed.
“A kid falls off a slide at Water Country today due to lifeguard’s block,” the newscast reports.
When nothing I write seems to be of good quality, and I feel exasperated by my
self-imposed expectations, I break free from what I’m doing and free write. I cut
myself some much-needed slack and go forth writing nonstop for a minute or two. It’s a relief to see the words flow without hesitation or immediate judgment. Some of what spews out is salvageable and easy to implement into what I’m working on. Other bits and pieces are more suitable for starting something entirely new. For example, I did a free write just now, and this is slightly embarrassing, but I was surprised to find “It’s Fritz, the hazmat cat” submerged in the soupy swamp of adjectives and prepositions. Clearly, that is not something that streamlines with this blog. But Fritz could find his way into a children’s book. Not only is that idea worth saving to explore later, it helped me continue to create and be productive when my cursor blinked in place one too many times.
So, if your wheels start to spin in the muck, forget about contriving your magnificent world for a second. Take a siesta from striving for pure excellence. Lower your standards and forgive yourself for not being so immaculate. Let the words out, adapt, and keep going.
No one has to read anything you experiment with. Embrace your shortcomings and work through them. Forge new paths if you’re discouraged. Go forth and just write!
Perfectionists only exist in imperfect worlds.