I've been struggling with writer's block. Not a bad case, but enough to knock my motivation out. I'd rather be running, jamming on my guitar, or reading. The page looks intimidating and I'm unsure about my ability to tackle it.
I'm okay with mild cases of writer's block; for unlike the more severe, debilitating cases, I can handle these little munchkins.
What I usually find has happened to me when I'm like this is that I've fallen apart mentally. I've lost my perspective on things, on myself, on my art. There's nothing influencing me, no life changing factors, just my emotional landscape has become loose, like a wheel on a wagon after many miles of hard travel.
Writing is no longer fun because I'm no longer looking at it as fun. I don't come to it seeking enjoyment, but treat it as duty.
Writing seems too big, too much to handle, because I've lost sight of the moment. “Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves,” Joe Paterno often said. I'm trying to write entire stories in one sitting instead of peeling off a chapter, a page, or a paragraph at a time.
The passion for writing has waned because I'm no longer cultivating my passion for storytelling. I'm focused on other things (on playing my guitar, running, and reading other peoples' stories), and so I'm not laying the necessary groundwork needed to sit down and write my own. I have no fuel to burn.
These problems are fixable. The solutions are straight forward for me, painless really, for some of them apply to life outside of writing as well and even as I work them into my art I shall inevitably work them into my life.
The first solution is to let go; to simply “quit” trying to be perfect. It's my need to do things right that makes me want to do the whole story at once, and if I can't do that, then to not do it at all. Or write it perfectly, and if I cannot, to not write it at all. You can see how this “perfectionist” mindset may zap the fun out of something. Quitting and daring to make a mistake is cathartic.
Another way to combat mild writer's block is to give myself time, instead of a word count. If I can just sit down for X amount of minutes or hours, instead of trying to hit Y word count or Y pages or Y chapters, then much of the pressure to get something done evaporates. I'm no longer considering the end result, but am focused on the moment, on the time I have. I may not get anything done, but I won't beat myself up for it. And if I do get something done, it's a cherry.
Making time for writing is important, but it doesn't have to be a long time. When I'm in a funk like this it's probably better that it's not very long. Half an hour or an hour can be enough. Once I start I sometimes don't feel like stopping and I take advantage of that mood. It's less pressure on me.
The best thing I can do for myself when I can't write is to break the writing down into the smallest practical steps. Taking a story one paragraph at a time, a few hundred words at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time, is essential to overcoming my current writer's block. This “staying in the moment” enables me to focus, not on the end product, but on what I'm writing. I don't have to pressure myself to be perfect, but dare to make mistakes, knowing that I can always rewrite chapters later. I often surprise myself, for when I relax enough to write, I relax enough to write well.
In the end the cause behind a mild case of writer's block like the one I am going through now is tension. I'm “pushing” when I don't have to. I don't feel like I'm doing enough so I try to do more, end up trying too hard, and don't do anything. Coming to the blank page feels like coming to a great battle, and without the courage to battle it out, I simply retreat.
It's easier to change my view on the blank page than it is to find the courage to win a war. The blank page is not my enemy, but my friend. It's not my destiny, but my joy. It's not my duty, but an hour to kill.
I write not because I have to, but because I want to.