The Lies We Tell Ourselves During Writer's Block

Today, I’m having a bad day. Okay, a bad two or three days. Every minute I spend sitting at my desk to write is filled with the cursor blinking at me, wondering what I’m going to say. Taunting me every time I type and delete and then type and delete another sentence.

On days like today, I become very unkind to myself. Generally speaking, I like myself well enough. I know I’m smart, I know I have the capability to write well, and I know that I’m a pretty decent human. I’m always available for my friends and family, quick to drop everything to help someone in need.

But on days like today, when the writing won’t come, this is the script that plays through my head:

You’re worthless.
You’re never going to be able to do this.
It’s been fun, kid, but seriously, move on to something else.
Who do you think you are to think you have words that are worth other people’s time?
You don’t deserve to do this.

Turns out, I can be kind of a jerk to myself. But it only happens when the writing isn’t going well. Now, I should say that I don’t get a major high the way some others do when the writing does go well. The extreme emotions I feel spring up the most on the bad days. The embers of happiness I feel when I’m writing turn to soaring flames of despair and self-loathing when I’m blocked.

Chances are, you’ve been here before. Most people trying to make anything out of thin air — words, drawings, code, and so on — feel anguish when the blank page refuses to be filled. It’s a problem as old as time, and I’m not sure there’s a clear-cut solution that works for everyone. For me, the first two or three days in a week are like this, and then the next two or three days I’m able to quiet the anguish and get some work done.

It’s mentally exhausting. Every week feels like the end of a marathon. And yet, I haven’t figured out how to shorten the length of time it takes for me to get into the flow. And since I don’t have a clue how to fix this problem for myself or anyone else, let me offer you this:

Be kind to yourself. And if you can’t stop the internal script from tearing you down during writer’s block, at the very least don’t let it influence your real opinion of yourself.

The inner critic of yours? Think of them like an irate sports fan. You know, the one that screams at the star player for dropping the ball during one play while proclaiming their excellence the second they do something well. Let that rage-y sports fan inside of you have a moment, but don’t let their words change you or change your vision for your work. Tomorrow or the next day or the day after that, you’ll be back in the flow state, and all will be well again.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash