On Writer’s Block, Poems, Mom Jeans

Let’s talk about writer’s block.

It sucks.

And lately, I’ve been struggling with it quite a bit.

Now, there’s a lot of debate about whether or not writer’s block even exists or what it is defined as, but when you’re experiencing something akin to it, it can be easy to get really down on yourself and think you’ll never be able to write again.  It really does become that dramatic sometimes.

A few years back I was taking a poetry class in college.  Most of my classmates, myself included, had all been in the same previous level poetry class the semester before.  It was magical how prolific we all were, and how unafraid we were to try new things and share with each other.

But then…something happened at the beginning of that second semester together.  Many of us started to doubt.  We made excuses before reading a poem.  We complained that we just weren’t inspired.  We were blocked.  We had run out of ideas.  We panicked.

That mindset has a special way of crushing your joy.  And in my experience, I was reduced to tears of desperation on more than one occasion.  But in the middle of it all, I received an email from a girl in my class.  And I’m going to share part of it with you all because there’s a chance one of my might need to hear these words:

Here’s me telling you that you’re a writer. And you matter. And your words make my life better…even ones you don’t like or have a hard time putting down. Just promise you’ll never stop! And promise me that when I’m wearing mom pants you’ll send me your poems because I know that I’ll need them.

I printed it out and kept it close, and although she and I have drifted apart, both geographically and relationally, I’m reminded that she made me promise I’d never stop writing.  Even when I’m at a loss for words.  Even when I don’t like the words I find.  And especially when the words are hard to write.

So a thanks to her, and to my ever-patient professor who dealt with an entire class in crisis all at once.  And a thank you to all of you for reading.

Do you have any cure-all methods for dealing with writer’s block?  Any encouraging words you’ve kept close?

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8 thoughts on “On Writer’s Block, Poems, Mom Jeans

  1. When I get words of encouragment like that, I write them down on notecards (or printed them) and put them in a coffee cup. When I’m feeling discouraged, sometimes just looking at the plethora of colored notecards in my Blessing Cup is enough to encourage me. If that doesn’t do the trick, I unfold a few of them to remember that I matter, my writing inspires, and people are cheering for me to move forward. It doesn’t always cure Writer’s Block, but it puts a smile back on my face and the blank page is no longer as daunting.
    Katie

  2. This is a great post, and that was a great letter. Mom jeans, that just takes you to a place in the future. Sometimes that helps, to get out of the now, to realize that somewhere someone doesn’t mind the cliche or tired things you sometimes write, they know you’re trying and so they sit and wait. They tell you when it’s good, the sit there and love you when it’s been done and they give you suggestions, tiny tweaks you could do to make what was normal into something extraordinary. Friends and times like that are irreplaceable. Thank you for sharing!

    Also, I’m doing the 12 week Artist’s Way program thing. The book by Julia Cameron. She’s pretty wonderful even if I think she’s a bit hippy dippy sometimes. My judgements on her free-flow lifestyle can’t take away the fact that she is successful and she has helped others be successful and continue creating as well.

    • I totally agree. I think it would be hard to survive as an artist without friends like that around to negate the lies we tend to absorb about ourselves.

      I’ve had the Artist’s Way book sitting on my bookshelf for YEARS. Maybe it’s time I pick it up…

      Thanks for your comment!

  3. If there is a cure all for writers block, I haven’t found it yet. There is a few things I have found that do help though.

    One is to set a timer for 40 minutes (or whatever length of time works) and make myself not stop writing until the timer goes off. Until that timer goes off I don’t check my facebook, ignore my phone, and try not to stop and think about whether the writing is any good. Binge writing like that doesn’t always produce excellent writing but it at least means you have something you can refine which is a great improvement on having nothing.

    Changing your way of getting ideas down can help. Sometimes shifting from computer to handwriting can help, especially if I am doing informal writing. I spend too much time at my computer doing academic writing so can get in that rut. Sometimes mindmapping works as it allows you to throw down a whole lot of vaguely connected ideas and see how they might all work together. Freemind is a great free computer program for this.

    • Thanks for the tips, Joanna! Interesting you write about computer vs. handwriting. I find I tend to use the computer for academic writing and blog entries, and handwriting for poetry and journal writing. Not sure how I got into that habit, but switching it up from time to time would definitely be different and helpful, no doubt. I have a former professor who writes with a Japanese calligraphy paintbrush. She literally paints every letter!

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