I remember the day when my friend Joy confronted me about why I wasn’t writing. We sat on a bench outside the restaurant where we’d just eaten lunch after our writer’s guild meeting. The same guild where I was serving as president.
“Why do you think you’re not writing?” she asked.
I just sat there, shaking my head. “I don’t know.” I told her how I wished I could enjoy writing like other writers did. That although I had a talent for it, finding pleasure in the work eluded me. While I did manage to churn out a quarterly newsletter for the guild, I wasn’t working on my novel or any short stories. I’d told myself that I was making a temporary sacrifice by serving as president, and when my term was up, I’d get back to my novel.
But that didn’t happen. Instead I continued to busy myself with writerly things–which is easy to do when you run a critique group and stay on the writer’s guild board. I was also quick to help a fledgling writer with a critique or edit. At the same time, my day job had ceased to exist–dairy farming, which is another story–so I was also starting my editing business so that I could keep working from home. I remained occupied–but still no writing. I had even purchased a book to help me–Write.10 Days to Overcome Writer’s Block. Period.–and I read through of parts of it and did some of the exercises, but other areas of my life needed attention, and I soon abandoned it.
Years went by, and I focused on my editing business, although I was still active in my critique group. At first friends would ask about my writing, trying to motivate me, but after a while they mostly gave up. At one point I started reading my novel from the beginning again, hoping that it would inspire me to finish it. I did NaNoWriMo one year and used the challenge to finish my novel, but it was a rough finish. Nothing substantial. That wasn’t the way I worked. Chapters came few and far between, with no regularity.
Then about three years ago I read a book on goal setting that was right up my alley–Mini Habits by Stephen Guise. In a nutshell, the premise of the book is that you make ridiculously small daily goals that eventually create a habit. My small goal was to write fifty words per day, and I did at least that many, sometimes more, only missing about seventeen days in 2015. This yielded about ninety additional pages to my novel, yet the joy in writing still wasn’t there. The following year I quit the daily habit, but I wrote sporadically, determined to finish the novel. I also revisited Write. 10 Days to Overcome Writer’s Block. Period. only this time I did the exercises and finished the book. I got to the bottom of what was ailing me–a huge fear of rejection.
Huh? Sure, every writer has a certain amount of fear concerning rejection, but I belonged to a critique group, for goodness sake! When I did bring in my work, it went through the process of being critiqued–a sometimes difficult process. I took my share of good and bad comments concerning my work. I also had entered many contests over the years as well as submitting my stories for publication and had a box of rejection slips to prove it. Fear of rejection causing me to avoid writing?
As the end of last year approached, my novel was still lacking an ending. Writing was like pulling teeth. My prayer was that I’d finish it because I was so tired of disappointing myself. And I did finish the complete draft, which was in pretty good shape.
But I still didn’t enjoy writing.
As strange as it sounds, I started this year working on me–working on my self-esteem. Something I had not known even needed to be repaired. While it’s a continuing process, this heart work is paying off. While it’s not easy getting to the root cause and confronting emotions, this is precisely what I needed to be able to write again. To do what I was created to do.
Fast forward nine months, and I’m loving my work. I’m blogging here and at my new website A Rural Girl Writes. I’m enjoying creating again.
I have a good writer friend who, along with me, runs our critique group, and she tells me there is no such thing as writer’s block. I smile but politely disagree. I believe there are the less serious cases and then there are the stubborn ones which require a deeper look inside. As writers, we write with everything we are. If some part of us is broken, keeping us from creating, we need to work on that first.
The words will come again.
Do you struggle with writer’s block? Tell us about it in the comments.
This month’s theme: How to Get the Most From Conferences, Workshops, and Retreats
Related posts: Overcoming the Fear of Sharing Your Writing with Others