Now that I’m retired and have plenty of time to write, I seem to have writer’s block. I furiously edited the continuation of my novel, Honor Thy Father, Episode Two, so I could get it finished. Then I wrote a devotion that had been on my mind for a number of weeks. I spent the last week trying to do some marketing to get more exposure for my books. I edited some stories for a friend. And, of course, I am reading a ton of books. But now I’m stuck. So, I looked up the definition of writer’s block: “A temporary or lasting failure to put words on paper.” Yikes! Let’s just hope it’s temporary. Next, I looked up ways to overcome writer’s block. Here are some suggestions and my response to them:
- Enhance your workspace. Okay, I’ve decluttered my desk, and every day I move Hubby’s stuff out of my space. I try to tune out Hubby talking to himself (and me) at his desk, which is about three feet away from mine. One source suggested adding fresh flowers. Yeah, that would be one more thing for me or the cats to knock over and spill all over my notes.
- Set a timer for twenty-five minutes and don’t let yourself be interrupted during this time. Stay away from distractions. I laughed out loud at this suggestion. Sure, I have the willpower to resist playing solitaire and checking email for twenty-five minutes. When I’m “in the zone,” I can even go without taking a bathroom or lunch break. But not “let myself be interrupted?” I don’t have to look for distractions, they find me. Like the robo calls. Or the dogs barking at some perceived threat, like the garbage man stealing our garbage. Or the teenager demanding to know what’s for dinner. Or Hubby calling from work to ask me what I’m doing.
- Plan a Time and stick to it, no matter what. Hah! When people know you’re retired, they assume you have all day to accomplish things and can arrange your writing into the leftover time slots after you have done whatever task it is they want you to do. Sorry, I can’t take Younger Son to the emergency room to get stitches. I’m in my writing time. Sorry, I can’t attend that meeting because it’s the same time as my writing time. Sorry, I can’t cook dinner because I’m in my writing time. Sorry, I can’t take that writer’s workshop because it’s my writing time. I even use my writing as an excuse not to exercise. Although one source suggested taking a walk to clear writer’s block, that clearly contradicts advice number 3. Sorry, I can’t take a walk because that’s my writing time.
- Commit to writing so many words a day. Sure, I can do that. It may be complete drivel because my brain can’t come up with an interesting idea or plot, but I can be like Jack in The Shining, and write, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” over and over again just to make my word quota. But if you saw the movie, you know where that got him. He went insane and tried to kill his family. Do I really want to take that chance?
- Don’t give writer’s block a name. According to Psychologist, Steven Pritzker, writer’s block is an “artificial construct that justifies a discipline problem.” What? I’m disciplined! I have my butt in the chair in front of my computer desperately racking my brain trying to come up with something meaningful to write. It’s not my fault my thoughts are being hijacked with intrusions such as, “What was the name of the actress who played Shirley in Laverne and Shirley? Didn’t she die recently? What did she die of? Maybe I should Goggle it.” (Am I perhaps venturing into suggestion number 2 territory?) Fine. I won’t call it writer’s block. But, as Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Or something like that. Wait. Was it Shakespeare who said that?
To make matters worse, in researching writer’s block, I came across the question, “Is writer’s block a mental illness?” Fortunately, Google assures me it is not a mental illness (and if Google says so, that’s good enough for me), although it can be caused by conditions such as anxiety. Swell, now in addition to writer’s block, I have anxiety to worry about!