This is a guest post by the "World’s Strongest Librarian", Josh Hanagarne. I've been following Josh's blog since the beginning and it's been one great ride. His latest endeavour is a guest post ultra marathon, writing heck-of-a-lot of guest posts during this and the following month. With that kind of writing output, I was thinking that Josh doesn't suffer from the writer's block or "blank screen syndrome" that some of us do, so I asked for Josh's thoughts on the subject...
I don’t write much fiction anymore, but there was a time when it was all I could think of. The writing went smoothly at times, horribly difficult at others. That’s just the way it goes, whatever writing you do.
Sometimes it’s just not there. Sometimes writing is like pulling teeth, and sometimes it’s like pulling teeth out of your eyes.
Difficult, in other words.
In Barnes & Noble I saw a little box called A Creative Writer’s Kit. It was full of prompts and flash cards and promised to really get the creative juices flowing immediately.
What seemed like a promising idea was horrible for me. There was nothing worse for my creativity than forcing it into ideas that didn’t interest me.
I learned that there are two types of writer’s block. You can beat them both.
Type 1: I don’t have any ideas
This just isn’t true.
What seems like a lack of ideas can be many things. Everyone has a story and everyone has skills. Everyone has something to write about.
There’s little or no new information.
Maybe you don’t have any new ideas, but that’s fine.
You don’t have to create something brand new to be a writer. You have to write to be a writer. You have to be you. I know, I know, those are cheesy clichés, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t true.
Go to a bookstore and check out the self-improvement section. Good grief, the shelves overflow with books that are riffs on the same concepts:
- Believe in your dreams
- The law of attraction
- Fake it until you make it
- Think positively
- Be Honest
- Be genuine
- Hold yourself accountable
But the books keep coming because readers are looking for that author who says The Same Old Thing in a way that resonates with them.
If you’re stuck, it doesn’t mean you’re out of ideas. It might only mean that you’re trying to come up with brand new ideas. You may have some—maybe it will take a while to find them. Regardless, inventing brand new ideas all the time is a tall order.
Cut yourself some slack. When you think you’re out of ideas, try expanding or reflecting on the ideas of others.
It works. I’ve been there. Actually, I am there about three times each week!
Type 2: I don’t want to write about this
Unless you keep things fun, you won’t keep them.
I have some journalist friends. They say that for every cool story they get to write, they have to write a million terrible pieces about taxicab fares and zoning laws, and…you get the picture, right?
They have writer’s block because they hate what they’re writing about most of the time. This is very different than actually being “blocked.” But it can feel the same.
Again, I’ve been there. But I’m not there anymore and you don’t have to be either.
You can either:
- Find a way to keep things fun and interesting
- Find a way to write about other things
If you can’t stay curious, writing is just another job. My favorite pieces always make me feel like the author had a blast writing them. The words are alive because they were created with joy and passion.
Summing it all up
You do have ideas, even if they aren’t new.
Find a way to love what you write about or the effort will grind you down and burn you out. If you write about things you love, you’ll be fine.
Keep it interesting and you’ll never want to stop.
I’ve been there, too. It’s great.
About the Author: Josh Hanagarne writes World’s Strongest Librarian, a blog with advice about coping with Tourette’s Syndrome, book recommendations, buying pants when you’re 6'8", old-time strongman training, kettlebells, and much more. Please subscribe to Josh’s RSS Updates and Stronger, Smarter, Better Newsletter to stay in touch.