Sometimes, writer’s block isn’t as easy as not knowing what to write. I never thought of the weight dragging me down as a form of writer’s block. Over the past week, I’ve come to realize that the most dangerous form of writer’s block, the one that’s hardest to overcome, is the voices in my own head. It’s the reminders from my past that I could do so much more if I simply applied myself. It’s the memory of someone telling me I’m not good enough and should do something else with my life. And sadly, it’s the comparison to others, wondering why they have what I want and I don’t.
I’d like to say this revelation came to me all on my own, but it didn’t. This is about to get long-winded, so if you need, grab a cup of coffee (nectar of the writing gods) and settle in. If you’re not happy with where you are, I’m hoping this post will be worth it. Okay, now go. I’ll wait.
All better? Good.
So, many years ago, before I opened the first Word document to write my first novel, I was a blogger. For me, it was a form of online journaling that gave me a connection to the outside world. My life had been tipped upside down thanks to a move back to my home state, unexpected pregnancy, marriage, and a new job. There were always people around, but I began to feel as though I’d lost a piece of myself. Unfortunately, it took me a long time to pull out the dustpan and start sweeping up those pieces to figure out what was worth keeping and what needed to be let go forever.
Sorry, I’m getting a bit off track from where I wanted to be, but I still think that’s important to share because I think it’s something a lot of us feel at times.
As a result of blogging, I found a community. And through that community, I started attending blogging conventions. At one of them, the keynote speaker was a man by the name of Jon Acuff. He was there to talk to us about following our dreams, and in part to promote his book, Quitter. I desperately wanted everything he talked about, but I was so lost I didn’t even know what my dream was. How can you know where you want to be if you don’t know what you are? If you’ve long since given up on your dreams because people told you that you weren’t good enough, that you could never make anything of yourself?
Since then, I’ve become a bit of a Jon Acuff junkie. Not only does he have some amazing information to share, but he’s also funny as hell. Seriously, if you haven’t heard of it, take a look at Stuff Christians Like. It’s funniest if you are a Christian, but if you at least know some, it’s still pretty humorous. I highly recommend the bit called “Booty, God, Booty” about early morning radio.
See, there I go off track again. Seriously, if I was a freight train, there’d be one hell of a mess to clean up.
More recently, I’ve started following Jon Acuff on Periscope. It was in one of those videos that he, very off-handedly, discussed the book that’s helped me change everything. It’s called The Artist’s Way and was written by Julia Cameron. I put it on my Christmas list and forgot about it. I mean, all this self-help stuff is a load of crap, right?
WRONG! As soon as we got home from my dad’s house, I cracked open the first page. It still sounded like hogwash, but I figured I owed it to the person who bought it for me to give it a try. Otherwise, they’d wasted their money.
The first morning, I sat down and realized just how hard it is to write about nothing in particular for three pages. It sounded so simple, and yet I kept staring at the blank pages wondering how in the hell I’d ever be able to fill them. Somehow, I did, and I moved on with my day.
The second morning, I sat at the couch and wrote, releasing all of the frustrations that lingered from the day before. I felt better than I thought I would.
The third morning, everything went wrong. I overslept (by four hours), I burned my hand, the house was full of people thanks to Christmas break and the first massive snowstorm of the year, I dumped my coffee and breakfast all over my desk and the floor, and there was a cute but super whiny puppy demanding my attention. I threw my hands in the air and said I’d never get anything done. And yet, I sat down (begrudgingly) with my journal and wrote. And as the thoughts drifted from my head through the pen onto the paper, I found the root cause of my blockage.
I’m afraid. I’m terrified that the voices of people in my past are right and I can’t do this. I’m afraid that if I show my photos to anyone, they’ll laugh because I’m just learning. I shudder when I think about sitting down at the piano we bought a year ago because I’m not good at it. I’m worried that the voices of characters in my head are steering me wrong and the critics who told me I shouldn’t write what I love were right.
Would I have come to these conclusions without a book to help guide me? Possibly, but more than likely I would have been content thinking I can never be better than what I am. On the other hand, The Artist’s Way is another tool in my box and I’m going to see it through to the end. I’ll post some updates on my progress, but if the early days are any indication, this isn’t a change to my writing process, it’s a change to how I look at my life.