Freelance Blog + musings on writing

Is It Writer's Block? Or Over-Thinking?

"Don’t get it right, just get it written." ~James Thurber, The New YorkerAwhile back, a guest blogger proclaimed writer's block a lie. And many of you weighed in for or against this notion. I've been thinking about this a lot, and I have another theory: often what we think is writer's block is actually our brains over-thinking the project. I don't always agree 100% with my guest posters, and in this case, I respect Daryl, but I disagree with his idea that you should love every single project you tackle and if you don't, that might be why you're feeling blocked. Look: if you write for a living, you're probably going to have to do some projects that don't excite your inner muse. Unless you're independently wealthy (or incredibly lucky), there will be times you accept projects because you need the paycheck. The fabulous Lori Widmer recently published a post about getting through projects she describes as spaghetti squash (they don't taste good, but you need to do them anyway). I suggested that you think about the paycheck as dessert and let that motivate you. And I'm going to give you the same advice you'll hear from some nutritionists: don't settle for crappy dessert. Go for the good stuff. If you're writing for the paycheck, then make sure it's really worth your while and you won't need to swallow so much spaghetti squash in the future because you'll have that heavenly dessert to sustain you. But back to my original point: over-thinking. Many times we have ideas and phrases floating around our heads, but our inner editor dismisses them. (I observed this in a writer friend recently, and I'm certainly guilty of it myself sometimes.) We spend two hours laboring over the first three sentences, staring at an empty computer screen, because we think none of our ideas are good enough. This isn't writer's block at all! This is us obsessing about finding the absolute perfect word when it would come if we let it. Don't over-think it. Let the words flow. Remember Anne Lamott's theory about shitty first drafts (all good writers have them, she says, and they are necessary for the writer to move forward). If you don't have a deadline looming and you need to step away from your keyboard and go outside or shift gears and work on another project, do it. If you're up against a deadline, then it's usually better to have a mediocre something than nothing at all. You can always polish, nip, and tuck later. What do you think? Have you ever found yourself obsessing over a writing project? Or do you find that you're still plagued by writer's block? Flickr photo courtesy of - reuben -

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