Can’t Write, Won’t Write

Writer’s block is such a frustrating experience which is sure to ail you more than a few times if you are a writer.  Even now as I am sitting here, I am having a hard time getting the words out, why is that?  Why can it be so hard to actually sit down and write?   I recently talked with a man who told me he couldn’t write anything for years and that the experience physically hurt him.  The process of writing can be as cathartic to a writer as yoga is to a Buddhist, so I understood completely where he was coming from.  And what caused his writer’s block? He didn’t know.

To me, writing is like therapy and my computer is the most cost-efficient psychologist anyone can find.  However, whenever I try to write a nonfiction piece on a particular rough experience I had, I get blocked.  I can write the story, but writing it well is my problem.  I start to think about how others will perceive my piece.  Is it universal enough?  Is it whiny? Or is it just beating down a path that is so brutalized no one cares to walk down it anymore?

I ran across an interview between Elissa Bassist and Cheryl Strayed who talked about this particular issue.  The interview is a follow-up to an interesting story where Strayed’s advice to Bassist clears her of her block and she is able to write a book.  At the time, Bassist was concerned about “how does a woman get up and become the writer she wishes she’d be?”  Strayed replied that “Writing is hard for every last one of us—straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig. You need to do the same. … So write, Elissa Bassist. Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a mother#$%^*.”  I laughed because I remember a particular writing professor of mine advising our class to do just that.  Of course, its not always that easy.

The two writers talk about the distractions of social media possibly playing a part, but mostly how writer’s block is still a mystery even to veterans of the field.  Is getting rid of writer’s block as easy as throwing away your ego, or is it more than that? Is it something deeper that none of us can figure out?

One thought on “Can’t Write, Won’t Write

  1. I read the interview and it was pretty comical. But I think their best comment was “Shut up and write.” You mentioned it’s our own ego that gets in the way of writing and For me it definitely is. I try to sit down and get started but before I can even do that I tell myself why bother, it’s going to garbage anyways. And my ego likes to tell me I have more productive things I could be doing and begins to shout them off in a list. Once I hear that, I can’t write.

    But I have found some tricks to help (well they at least help me most of the time). Find all the distractions and chuck them down a flight of stairs or remove yourself from that environment entirely. Sometimes going to a nice boring foreign place works best. My favorite spot is a nice guest room. Neutral bland colored walls, quite decorations, four nice walls that comfortable stare back at you. It’s great. Nothing to distract you and not entirely pleasant to be in, so you go in, get your shit done, and get out.
    Another trick, tell your ego to shut up. Or tell it their right but your going to do it anyways, be a rebel. And once you start writing (even if it is total garbage) at least your writing. And for me it takes a solid paragraph of trash to be down on paper and then I can really start writing.

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