Writer’s Un-Block

I don’t believe in writer’s block. Really, I don’t. But I do believe in bad writing, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past few days. I’ve started two different posts to publish today, and I don’t think either of them are good enough to finish. And they were book reviews, which aren’t the hardest things to write! I’m trying not to be too hard on myself- after all, everyone has a bad day once in awhile. Some days, musicians can’t achieve a decent tone quality (my flute teacher used to call this, “blowing through Triscuits”, which I think is both apt and hilarious); ballerinas lose their sense of grace; chefs lose a soufflé to gravity.

I was about to give up and either not publish a post at all today, or re-post an old book review, but my stubborn, goal-driven, determined, first-born personality took over, and she wouldn’t let me do either of those things.

“But what do I do?” I asked her. “My writing brain isn’t working.”

“So use your writing heart,” she snapped back. 

And then I remembered a technique some other bloggers have tried recently. Everyone seems to call it something different, but the gist of it is, you just write for awhile, come to a stopping point, and then hit publish. No editing, no polishing, nothing beyond a quick skim to make sure there are no major grammatical or spelling errors.

I love editing, and my first drafts usually need quite a bit of revision, so this idea scares me. But I’m going to try it anyway. And I’m starting to feel okay about it. I’ve already written 250 words of this post and somehow haven’t lost the thread.

Let’s get back to what I said in the beginning. I don’t believe in writer’s block. I feel like this is the writer’s equivalent to saying “I don’t believe in ghosts;” maybe they exist, but if I don’t believe in them, they won’t exist for me. I’ve never had trouble sitting down and writing; I think that’s because I’ve had the journaling habit for so long. So the idea of sitting in front of a blank screen isn’t scary to me. You just type one word, and then the next word, and then you’re on your way. What I hate is spending time writing and knowing what I’m producing is poor quality. Sometimes there’s a reason for this, sometimes not.

Today, I think I know the reason. I’m suffering from a lack of writing confidence. I’ve been sending out queries to agents for my novel, and not hearing anything back (which is standard if they don’t want to represent you) or getting nice, nonspecific rejection letters back (which is actually a relief, because at least you know your query was read). I know I’m going to get rejected a lot of times, and I only have to be accepted once. It’s like dating in that way- you’re searching for the One, the agent who is right for you, and who also believes you are right for them. I guess this is where I blame my husband for being the One and finding me when I was only twenty years old, so I didn’t have to go through this sort of search. (Yes, I know how lucky I am, and yes, I will tell my husband that tonight.) So I know that rejection is not only routine, but necessary. And yet it’s a rejection- how could one not feel a little bit deflated by it?

I know I’ve come a long, long way since the day I realized I wanted to be a writer. I’ve written thousands of words, spent hundreds of hours on my laptop, and hundreds more thinking up blog post ideas or deciding what happens next in my novel. I’ve designed a website, published a few articles, interviewed interesting people. I’ve even survived the short-story publication process, and I’m having a story published this spring by a literary magazine that’s been around since the 1960s and has published work by John Steinbeck and Joyce Carol Oates. (That still makes me think, “Wow.”) That story was also rejected several times before it found a home. I have faith that I’ll find the right agent for my novel. I just haven’t gotten there in my journey yet.

I think writing this post worked to un-block me! I feel a lot better about my writing ability, and I’m glad I tried a new process. Now for my usual ending question…

What gives you a crisis of confidence? How do you work through it?

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