For as simplistic as a book, article, or piece of writing appears to the person who reading it, writing is a ridiculously difficult activity. I don't mean difficult, as in "I can't lift this pen." I mean difficult, as in "Oh, I really should wash the drapes, walk the dog, call my mom, and polish Aunt Sally's silver before I start writing." Mental blocks sometimes serve a purpose when we're waiting for the words to come or the next plot event to fall into place, but what about when we just use good, old-fashioned procrastination itself as an excuse not to write?

I start each and every day with writing. Up at 4:30 for a walk with the dog, then I settle into my routine of morning pages for a few minutes before moving on to whatever story or article I'm working on. I work until 6:30, when it's time to hop in the shower and leave for another day of teaching middle school ESL. My corner of the world is not as happy as it can be if I don't get my time alone with words each morning, but on occasion, I run head-on into a wall of procrastination and find stringing words together a more difficult task than teaching 7th graders how to conjugate verbs.

When I feel words clogging up inside and unable to come out, one trick I've learned is to put the pen to the paper and write out the problem itself. I know it sounds too easy, too simple, too good to be true---and I felt that way when I first heard the idea. But time and again, writing out the problem gets things moving in a way that continual procrastination (and subsequent waiting for enlightenment/inspiration/the muse) cannot.

I was on deadline for a magazine article and knew my subject matter well—everything except the introduction. I put off writing the article until a week before it was due (which is my personal due date). I was so frustrated that when I sat to work on the article, I just poured my agitation onto the page. The more I wrote about how I didn't have the perfect introduction, the more my brain responded by giving me possible phrases and sentences to start my piece. I scratched these down furiously in the margin. By the time I finished venting, I had enough bits and pieces of possible beginnings to choose from that one of them just "clicked". (You writers know what I mean!).

This works with fiction, too. I just finished a short story and couldn't figure out the hero's line of work. I saw him crystal-clear in my mind, knew his job was a key to his interaction with the heroine...even if I didn't know what his job was. I journaled that his job was so important to the story I needed to know before I went on and found all kinds of questions brewing in my mind. After a few minutes, I discovered he was a small business owner with lots of connections, which was crucial to my heroine's conflict.

I don't know what makes writing down the block itself such a powerful trigger in unleashing the words, but I do know that I'm not questioning it. Maybe it's the physical act of writing or how naming a problem can help generate a solution that gets things moving. Of course, it doesn't work all the time—sometimes there are blocks and issues that go way deeper in the writer's psyche that affect the ability to write. But the next time you're creatively stuck, why not try taking the power away from the block by naming it? It sure beats finding yourself sitting at the dining room table polishing a pile of Aunt Sally's heirloom forks when you really wish you were writing....

I'm so thrilled you stopped by Jenny's blog to read my post. To get you started in writing about your blocks, I'll be giving away a writer's journal this week to one lucky blog reader who posts a comment here. I really appreciate you reading...there are so many blogs to visit and so little time! Thanks for reading :)

Happy Writing!


Mandi's Lucky Day from The Wild Rose Press


Jenny Gilliam said...

I can defintely relate, Beth. There are so many times that I use housework or something random as an excuse not to write. I've been getting better, but perhaps this method will help smooth out the rough edges. Thanks for being my guest!


Beth said...

My pleasure, Jenny. It's so frustrating when we know we want to be writing but just don't know what's keeping us back.

Glad you liked it. Thanks so much for the opportunity to share at your blog. You've got some great stuff here!


Tarot By Arwen said...

Great blog, Beth. I use Tarot cards for breaking blocks. I really liked your idea of journaling the problem out. Fits very well for me. So thank you for sharing this.

Jenny Gilliam said...

Tarot cards...hmm. I never thought of that before, and I'm Wiccan!


Tarot By Arwen said...

Well merry meet then! :)

Jenny Gilliam said...

Indeed, Merry Meet!

ddurance said...

I am a total procrastinator, so I know what you mean. Sometimes there's this one niggling thing that I will do practically anything else in order to get out of doing that one thing. I'm thinking of trying writing, if only for therapy. LOL


Ashley Ladd said...

I'll definitely have to try your method of dissolving blocks.

Penny Rader said...

I'm a major procrastinator, mostly because of fear. Not just the fear that it will, well, suck, but mostly the fear that nothing will happen when I sit down to write. I will definitely try your suggestion about naming what's stopping me. Thanks for the tip!