Overcoming Writer's Block

Sarah Rose

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Sometimes I really, really hate this blog.

Not because I don't like writing, but because all I write about is what I know, and I don't know much. Some days, I can honestly say I know nothing. I know that using a bit of white vinegar in a load of sweaty laundry can help your clothes smell better. And I know that one should not drive a car in a bike lane, or merge without using a turn signal. I know that sunscreen is important and that the ice caps are melting and that every day, millions of people drag themselves out of bed without the slightest clue as to what they're doing or why.

Sometimes I hate this blog because I get tired of all my dismal, boring thoughts that play like a metronome in my brain. I heard once that 90 percent of our thoughts every day are not unique, and although that may not be true, it is *highly* depressing.

One of my writing professors told us that the best writing comes from an honest place; that the best way to write well is to write intimately. He also told us that writer's block isn't real, it's simply fear dressed up as an excuse. Because, he said, one can always write, but one cannot always write well. The fear of writing something bad can keep us from writing anything at all, which is why so many of us have half-finished articles and pages of poems and a book we've started and stopped writing a million times.

The author Auberon Waugh said, "In my experience, novelists and others who complain of a mysterious disease called Writer’s Block should be treated with suspicion. This inexplicable failure to write anything can be the result of two conditions— simple laziness or having nothing to say…One needs only to develop a certain power of concentration and have something to say.”

Jordan Peterson said the best writing comes from addressing a question that you need to answer. Writing teaches us how to think, how to put coherent thoughts together, how to consider ideas from all sides and inspect them so carefully that when we lay them down on the page, they make some kind of sense. Good writing makes writing look easy, but nothing done well is done easily.

When I dig to the bottom of why I've ever avoided doing anything, ever in my life, the answer is usually fear. Sometimes, it takes me a while to figure out that fear is at the bottom of my procrastinations because fear is easy to dress up as other things. "I'm too busy," I think. Or, "I have other priorities right now," or, "It isn't that important." Diminishing the importance of whatever you're afraid of doesn't make it magically disappear, it usually makes your fear grow deeper, granting it life it never really had. Darkness can only grow in the dark, after all.

So, writer's block is really nothing more than one kind of fear dressed up in a fancy phrase that undergraduate writing students pass around like a liquor bottle. Here, have some writer's block, they say. Drink a bit of distraction. Don't sit down and write something profound, that's too hard. Don't sit down and write at all. Stay here with us and we'll distract you from your fear.

Sometimes I hate this blog because I never know what I'm going to write. Some days, ideas come in floods and I struggle to wrangle them all before they're swept away. And some days, my idea garden dries up entirely, leaving nothing but a few scraggly weeds and some half-hearted sentences that I inevitably delete a few days later. What matters though, is that I took the time to write the sentences I will later delete, because no good thing grows overnight, and even though I cannot always write well, I can always write.

Sometimes I love this blog, because nothing is more difficult than sitting down and sorting out my thoughts, and doing hard things helps me believe in doing other hard things.

“You can’t think yourself out of a writing block; you have to write yourself out of a thinking block.” — John Rogers


Sarah Rose

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Blogger | Poet | Freelancer | Ultra Runner Blog: The Prosiest IG: @mcmountain Email: sarahrose.writer@gmail.com

Dana Point, CA

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Keeping The Promises You Make to Yourself

[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.] “Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.” -Oliver Wendell Holmes Today I'm writing about confidence, the polar opposite of desperation and wise older sibling to cockiness. If you close your eyes right now, I'm sure you can picture someone you know who is cocky and doesn't that just irk you? Confidence is something to be earned while cockiness is a symptom. One is showy, the other is self-assured. One is overstated and inauthentic and the other is poised. I believe that the best way to increase confidence is to consistently keep the promises you make to yourself. You can't grow self-assured about anything until you have proven your own competency to yourself, and you can't grow competent until you show up. I've known many people who make promises they never keep. Whether it's a friend making a plan they never intend to follow through on, a business not returning your phone call, or a workplace not fulfilling their end of a compensation plan, we all know what it's like to encounter flakey, inconsistent people. You probably don't like or respect them very much, right? It's hard to trust someone who doesn't show that they're trustworthy, which is why confidence comes from trusting yourself. When I was in school, I got straight A's, and not because I was that smart. I studied hard and told myself that I would do the absolute best that I could. Once I understood that I could achieve straight A's, that was the standard I held myself to. Once I knew what I was capable of, anything less was unacceptable. It's important to point out that nobody else would have been disappointed with a B. Nobody can ever be as disappointed with me as I can be because nobody else cares as much. If you let other people dictate what success means, you'll always end up disappointed. When I'm training for a race (my next race is the Kodiak 100, in Big Bear, CA), I have to put in a lot of miles and a fair amount of time in the gym. Some mornings, the last thing I want to do is wake up and go for a run, and hit the snooze button more than once. Some days, I don't feel the least bit inspired to train, but I do anyway. I don't know much but I do know that putting in consistent work is one of the best ways to see positive results. You'll beat out many people simply by not quitting, by paying attention, and adjusting when things don't quite work. The worst thing you can do though, is bite off more than you can chew. Start with something small, even if it's setting an alarm earlier than you're used to (and not hitting snooze). Your promise to yourself could be as small as making your bed every morning to something as large as reaching out to five new people every day to build a business. Stephanie Barros from Igniting Your Spark outlines the following ways to keep the promises you make to you: 1. Make reasonable promises to yourself. If you've fallen short of a particular goal in the past, adjust it to make it more manageable, then build from there. 2. Put your promises on paper. Thoughts aren't solid, and they're easier to ignore than something you've written down and look at every day. Nothing is as solid as words on a page. 3. Do you mean it? The reason many promises fall through is that we never meant them in the first place. I personally don't see the point in making a promise you don't intend to keep, so be brutally honest with yourself about whether or not you plan to even try to keep them. 4. Change how you think about you. It seems universally true that we're nicer to others than we are to ourselves, and we're more afraid to let others down than we are to let ourselves down. It should be just as unacceptable to let yourself down as it is to let down other people. 5. Accept discomfort. Change is uncomfortable, no matter how big or small, and keeping the promises you make to yourself might seem uncomfortable, too. Nobody ever succeeded by sitting quietly in their comfort, after all. "A dream is a vision, a goal is a promise. You can keep your promises to yourself by remaining flexible, focused, and committed." `~ Denis Waitley xoxo Sarah Rose.

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