About this “there’s no such thing as writer’s block” thing

I get kind of pissed off when people say there’s no such thing as writer’s block.

People say “you don’t ever hear of plumber’s block, do you?”

And, “Writers write. If you’re a writer, write.”

Which, yeah.

I agree with that.

Writers write.

But not when they feel stuck.

But if you think about it carefully, doesn’t writers block really mean “feeling unable to write”?

And isn’t it a bit ridiculous to tell someone there is no such thing as the feeling they are feeling?

I think it is.

One of my coaches, Jessica Michaelson, says there are no rules governing our inner emotional sanctuaries.

We get to feel how we feel. We may chose to take action that is different than how we feel – like not throwing the baby out the window when he wont stop screaming ;) or choosing to write when we are not in the mood (which is not the same thing as feeling blocked by the way) – but we may still feel angry and at wit’s end, or grouchy and out of sorts, and that’s perfectly okay.

In fact, I’m not at all sure how it helps someone who feels blocked to invalidate how they are feeling.

I will say, however, that what worries me is how writers usually chose to deal with writer’s block, and what they make it mean in their heads.

Lots of writers who feel blocked just stop writing and flat out hide. Or go around complaining that they are blocked as if they have no ability to make any kind of change their own lives.

I get equally pissed off by people who don’t choose to take action to help themselves, even if it’s a matter of reaching out for help to someone like me, one of my Writer’s Circle coaches, or any of the other wonderful writing coaches and mentors out there in the world.

But there’s a reason why we don’t.

It’s shame.

Shame is what makes us hide and stop reporting our results or asking for help.

Shame makes us say “I should be writing.”

And, “But I can’t.”

And that’s the part of me that doesn’t get pissed off but instead wants to come sweeping over to your house and give you a big giant hug and tell you it’s all going to be okay. And then make you a cup of tea and talk, really talk, about what is going on inside that head of yours and help you make a real plan for how you will start to shift and change it, with me holding your hand every step of the way.

Writing is a lonely business.

Feeling blocked is even more so.

It’s not fair to compare it to a chronic illness or depression, but in some ways it’s just as soul crippling.

And as someone who is in the business of helping people honor their soul’s calling, it’s one of the challenges I most love helping you overcome.



If the goal is too big, make it smaller

7 ways to beat procrastination

Ugh. Procrastination.

We’re all familiar with that simultaneous desire to write and the repulsion from writing that leads us into the nether realm of procrastination. We’re doing something else — ANYTHING else — and it can range from feeling like we’re doing something vitally important to just plain old digging our heels in and resisting.

Sometimes we tell ourselves we need to “warm up” first before we can write, with a little email, Facebook, or even a treat of some kind.

Or we decide we simply cannot tolerate the state of our physical space for a single minute longer — how many offices, bathrooms, and kitchens have seen the plus side of procrastination on a day when writing feels oh-so-hard to do?

Other things come up too, right? All those urgent deadlines, other people’s problems, our kids’ needs, that bit of online research you just can’t wait to do (you know, that one that snowballs into two hours of online nothingness — and yes, I speak from experience), or even bigger things, like that college degree you suddenly have to have.

Understanding procrastination

There are a few of key things to understand about procrastination:

1. It’s (usually) driven by fear. There’s some kind of fear coming up that’s stopping you from writing. You may not be clear on what it is, but trust me, it’s there. Fears of success, failure, commitment, overwhelm, rejection, praise, inability to deliver, etc. are most likely to come up. (When it’s not fear-driven, there’s usually something significant going on, like healing from a traumatic creative wound or recovering from creative burnout, but I would call that a block, a subject for a future post.)

2. Not taking action on your writing will keep you in a low grade state of anxiety, guilt, and shame. I say “low” but it can skyrocket into a full-on painful squirming-in-shame. So even if you’re pretending you are just watching your favorite TV show for a little treat before you get started and that it will help you relax into writing — check in with yourself — are you really, truly, in your heart-of-heart’s feeling relaxed? Or are you twitching with unrest and discomfort inside?

3. It’s a lot easier to fix than you think it is. There are some days when it simply isn’t possible to sit down and power through tons of writing. That’s okay. There are days when you can’t face your draft. That’s okay. But you CAN write, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

And ultimately, making small moves will help you beat procrastination in the big picture.

Beating procrastination

Here are seven ways you can beat procrastination and get back in the writing saddle:

1. Have a short but honest talk with yourself about what’s really going on. This doesn’t have to be a big deal. But it’s worth acknowledging in the privacy of your own mind, “Yes, I’m procrastinating, and it feels crummy. I’m going to do something about it.”

2. Tell someone what you’re doing. Find an accountability partner, a writing buddy, or a writing group (like my online Writer’s Circle) that will help you commit to doing the writing and seeing it through. It helps tremendously to say to another person (even if it’s your spouse or best friend!), “I’m going to write today no matter what.”

3. Make a deal with yourself to write ANYTHING for 15 minutes. I don’t care if you write morning pages, a list of all the reasons you hate writing, or actually work on your current writing project. Just get out a piece of paper or open your Scrivener file or Word document (I’m a Pages girl myself), and put words on the page, even if they are crap. (Using a timer for your 15 minutes is a special bonus tip – it’s like pressing the “GO” button. Try it!)

4. If 15 minutes feels like too much, make it smaller. The goal should be small enough that you find yourself saying, “Well, heck, I can at least do THAT much.” So if 15 minutes sounds daunting, do five. Or write ONE sentence (I’m not kidding). The key here is to get yourself into action WRITING. Period.

5. If you’ve racked up a lot of frequent procrastinator miles, STOP when you meet your goal. There are a LOT of writers I talk to who commit to write for 15 minutes, do it, and then find it so easy they keep on going. That’s great, if you’re just jump-starting yourself after a day or two away. But if you’ve been in the writing desert and the words have been few and far between, when you meet your writing goal for the day, stop and celebrate. Don’t break trust with yourself and keep on writing — you’ll only set yourself up for a bigger challenge tomorrow when you feel like you have to “do better” and suddenly have too daunting a goal to face. 

6. Reward yourself for writing. One of my favorite writers, writer-director Joss Whedon (Firefly, Buffy, The Avengers), rewards himself just for having an idea. Don’t be stingy here. Writing each day is the equivalent of beating back the forces of darkness. You deserve to whoop it up a little once you pull it off. Give yourself a piece of chocolate, a stretch in the sunshine, or even those things you’d normally be procrastinating with. Remember the email, Facebook, and favorite TV shows? Make those your cool downs instead of your warm ups and you’ll be good to go.

7. Do it again tomorrow! You’ve beaten procrastination today, great work!! Now, when you wake up tomorrow, use these tools to make a shorter path to writing. It’ll feel great. Then once you get on a roll, start building up to more over time.

Thanks for reading!

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.





There’s no right time to write

Join the Writer's CircleWe often trick ourselves into thinking there’s a “right” time to write. We plan special writing days. We dream of far-off futures where we’ll have plenty of time to write. But there really isn’t a “right” time — there’s only now. Join the next Writer’s Circle session (new sessions start every 28 days) and get help to beat procrastination and write every day.

Find out more and register here: http://JustDoTheWriting.com

Is there a dark side to accountability?

I’m a big fan of accountability.

Telling people you are going to do something is a great motivator for actually seeing it through.

It’s especially useful when it comes to doing something we care deeply about or holds great import in our lives but we have a lot of resistance around doing, like writing.

On some level, when we know we’re about to do something BIG, something that fulfills the calling or deeper purpose behind why we are here, we get scared.

We ask ourselves:

  • What if it works?
  • What if it doesn’t?
  • What if I can’t pull it off?

It’s like looking at the sun

These are the typical fears of someone staring their Big Dream in the face.

And usually, it’s too much to look at for long — it’s too bright, like staring into the sun.

And when we do look at our Big Dreams, they can feel overwhelming.

We feel like we have to do the whole thing NOW. Today. Tomorrow.

No wonder we put them off.

Take one bite at a time

That’s where the deliciousness of accountability for small daily action makes such a beautiful difference. It helps us break things down into the smallest incremental bites and take consistent action on them.

That’s how you eat an elephant — one bite at a time.

What happens when you don’t?

But what happens when you don’t take the small daily actions? I see people commit to their dreams but then fail to take action on them.

I feel so sad when this happens, not because they have failed to do their work, but because they have failed to ask for help.

True accountability can and should occur in a safe, supportive space where people feel comfortable coming forward and saying, “I’m not taking action on this and I don’t know why. Can you help me?”

Then, your accountability partners can help you find out why, and what might work better.

Safe space is co-created

One thing that many people fail to notice is that safe space is co-created.

When I welcome people into my “Just Do The Writing” Accountability Circle, I make a point to talk about how we want participants to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. We want to know the whole person, the self that has an easy time and the self that has a hard time, so we can truly support and witness each other.

We co-create our safe space by being honest with each other. It doesn’t happen by accident or only on my end.

I hold the space, you come into it, and we perpetuate it by being present and truthful with each other.

Without honesty, we get shame

By being truthful together in that space, we can avoid falling into the dark side of accountability: Shame.

Shame can be a positive motivator when it comes to accountability — it’s part of what gets us into action. But if it persists, and we don’t take action and we don’t talk about it, it can consume us, overwhelm us, and keep us stuck.

Bottom line?

True accountability and support happens in partnership.

If you’re finding yourself hiding out, it’s time to get help. We ALL feel this way at times — I certainly do.

The key is to reach out and get support from the right people who can help you get back on track.

Your Turn

Does this inspire you to shift anything for yourself? We’d love to hear about it.




Coming Attractions

~> March 1st, 2012. Last day to register for my next Life Purpose Breakthrough Group on March 29th. Only ONE SPOT is remaining, and registration closes TOMORROW, Thursday, March 1st. Register here.

~> March 15th, 2012. Last day to register for the next session of my Writer’s Circle session starting on March 19th. Get my Free Writing Tips series too, and receive a coupon for a savings on your first 4 week session. Sign up here.


What I'm Up To

~> Ongoing. Writing in the ProSeries class at ScreenwritingU, which was recently named the #1 screenwriting class by InkTip.

~> Daily and especially Fridays. Sacred writing time. The Do Not Disturb sign is up.

~> Still haven’t watched Super Eight! I got to re-watch The Game yesterday for one of my screenwriting assignments. Great fun.