You know how it goes. You sit down at your laptop or with a notebook, ready to write.
Only you don’t. The page stays blank. Nothing happens.
For most of my writing career, I’ve called this writer’s block. But lately, I’ve wondered if there even is such a thing.
The term writer’s block implies that there are hurdles to your creativity, and that to keep working, you have to smash through or jump over them. But nine times out of ten, if I just step away from the keyboard, the creativity flows. It’s just in different ways. For example, maybe you find a cool way to arrange your dishes, or you sing a random song in the shower.
So what’s the deal? How come when you go to write, nothing comes?
Creativity is not entirely just letting your subconscious run wild. It involves some analysis and choice, too. But I’ve started to be more mindful as I try to create my drafts. And I’ve found that, when I encounter a blank page that’s dangerously still white, I’m usually tossing the creativity out the window entirely and letting everything become critical thinking. I start worrying and feeling the pressure of “I have to”. Is this worded right? How do I fix this? Is option A, B, or C better? That’s problem-solving and mitigating risk, not just letting the words flow.
And let’s face it. Sometimes, you just might be in a yucky mood. If you’re mad, you probably could spew to a friend about how you want to incinerate the Earth and become best friends with an alien named Hermies who would eat marshmallow pops as a primary form of sustenance. That’s quite a creative vision!
Or you might have something else that your brain is prioritizing. For example, last weekend, I found it really hard to write a draft because I kept thinking about the flowers I had to put into my garden. I put the draft aside, but when I went to tend the flowers, I still put them in an artistic arrangement. I was creative, just not with words.
So it’s not that your creativity is blocked. It’s still there. It’s just that you’re shifting your focus. The real issue thus is just how to ensure your focus is on your draft when you are at the keyboard.
I don’t think this even would be a problem if we took a more when-it-strikes approach to writing. Instead, we’re always trying to squeeze it into neat little convenient boxes to fit everything else in our lives and have some guarantee of a finish. Those desires/needs make sense, but the system of things isn’t very good for ensuring you’ll sit down to write when your brain and heart can give you the best result.
So next time you feel like you have writer’s block, look around at the other things you’re doing. You’re probably still creative in tons of ways through the rest of your day. Try to be more flexible with yourself so you can work on your drafts in a more stream-of-consciousness, flitting way if need be. The words will come when your brain pings back to the project, and you’ll get your other stuff done/problems solved along the way, too.