Sandbags in the Stream

Sometimes, I just don’t feel like writing.  Or blogging.  Or emailing.  Or even putting pen to paper to write on the shopping list.

I don’t care for the term “writer’s block.”  I think it’s inaccurate.  It makes it sound like some invisible force, descending on me with some nefarious plan to keep me from setting down my thoughts.  I know the problem is with me, something internal, some way I am keeping myself from letting go.

This morning, to my delight, I discovered this post in my Twitter feed.  To sum up for people who are too lazy (or too uninterested) to read the whole thing, writer Melissa Donovan calls writer’s block a symptom, not the problem.  She lists five common underlying causes: physical ailments, stress and distractions, lazy days, a desire to do anything else, and procrastination.

I like this list, I would add two more:

1. Busyness syndrome.  I don’t necessarily mean being so busy one doesn’t have time to write; that’s not a cause of writer’s block.  I mean having so much else to do that I’ve spent the better part of my creative energy on something else.  It isn’t that I don’t have time, it’s that by the time I’ve finished with all my other tasks, I’m tired, cranky, and longing for a cup of cocoa and a cheesy sitcom.  This problem isn’t limited to writing.  When I’m suffering, I don’t even feel creative enough to make dinner.  Last night my burn-out reached fever pitch and I made my husband cook pasta.  With leftover sauce from the freezer.  Yep, I couldn’t even muster enough mental energy to boil penne.

2. Fear.  I know this one all too well.  I really need to learn to stop reading negative blog posts about creative horror stories.  You know, the ones about how it took someone ten years to publish anything (did it occur to them they might have just been sucky writers, not unlucky or approaching it the wrong way?).  Or the ones about how you need to take these Ten Steps to Being the Perfect Writer or else.  Or else what?  I won’t get published?  Maybe, but what if that’s not my goal?  When I think too far ahead, I frighten myself.  I start thinking that I’m not good enough now, I won’t be good enough then, and what ever shall I do because my whole life is flashing by and I haven’t done anything meaningful and now I’m even thinking in run-on sentences which is never a good sign…You get the picture.  That’s the point when my own fear of failure takes over.

Ms Donovan, who is a far superior writer, gives some practical advice for handling the causes of writer’s block.  I, not being she, have no suggestions.  I usually just have to deal with things as they come up.  A lot of prayer helps.  At the moment, I’m unwinding the knots in my brain by drinking tea and wishing I had a croissant to go with it.  Later, I’m going to spend some quality time with my daughter—no electronics, just the two of us.  We’ll probably read some books, do some schoolwork, and play some games.  Sounds like the perfect cure for almost everything on the list.

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2 thoughts on “Sandbags in the Stream

  1. I know what you feel like. Haven’t felt like writing. Been busy that last two weeks with editing videos from church. Think I’ll take a break from the editing this next week. Not so much for the writing, but because it just takes a lot of time.

    • Was wondering where you’d been. 🙂 I can’t imagine editing videos. I edit our church newsletter and I find that to be enough.

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