I’ve long maintained that I don’t believe in writer’s block. Sit down, focus, and knock some text out. I guess it’s my blue-collar, farmer roots. I don’t want to indulge the finicky muse. I just want to get shit done.
I’m revising this belief.
I’m tired. You might even say I’m burnt out. I don’t think I’ve taken a two-week vacation in my adult life. I work every weekend and often am taken unawares by B-list holidays. Recent Christmases have found me sitting at my parents’ dining room table trying to jack a neighbor’s WiFi so I can research a music legend for a possible book collaboration or write content for a retail website. Ho ho ho.
Being a freelance writer sounds idyllic to those on the outside. I get to set my own schedule. I am able to develop passion projects. I have the ability to meet up for coffee or lunch regularly. I can work in my housepants all day.
The reality? Not exactly puppy dogs and rainbows.
Don’t get me wrong. All the above “perks” are true but aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Scheduling is a bitch. Without meetings and others to report to, I find it nigh on impossible to keep to a routine. I need accountability beyond myself. I don’t draw a regular paycheck, so I take on all sorts of projects to pay the bills. I agree to unrealistic deadlines. I work seven days a week. I know I need to have more balance in theory, but I struggle to create this in practice. And I don’t sit in pajama bottoms all day, contrary to popular freelancer belief. What would Bill, my beloved UPS guy, think?
All this wears on me. And it wears on my writing. At times, my creative cupboard is bare.
Sure, I have techniques to jumpstart my writing when I’m staring at the screen. But if I’m uninspired by a project, it’s hard to make a cognitive shift so that I can plow through it in short order. Often, the projects that make my heart sing and my fingers fly get pushed to the side in favor of immediate, lucrative assignments. If I’m stuck with a claw-my-face-off project, I’ll put it aside for an hour or two and write something else that blows my skirt up. For instance, I’ll draft a blog post here or for Things I Want to Punch in the Face, a forum that provides me pure bliss. It’s an efficient way to re-juice me creatively.
And while I don’t exactly believe in waiting for that wifty bitch of a muse to roll in like Olivia Newton-John in Xanadu (although that’d be dope), I have discovered that my writing needs space to breathe and develop in my mind and heart before I can transfer it to the page. I’ve been batting around a teenage memoir like a cat with a mouse for years. It started out with one focus and I just couldn’t muster up enthusiasm to keep it going. I backburnered it and felt guilt over it for a year or two. Then something happened. I found the heart of the matter. It was only by giving it space that I realized that the real story, the painful one lurking behind my pithiness, was the one I needed to tell. It’s the project I have to write. In this case, writer’s block turned out to be a gift, not an excuse.
Meanwhile, I’m still staring at the screen and working to finish my urgent projects so I can fit my memoir into my schedule. I’m eager to have my heart singing and fingers soaring again but sometimes, I got nothing.
Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, what do you do to alleviate writer’s block? What inspires you?