Writer’s Block: Why It Isn’t Just About Writing and What You Need to Kick It for Good


C.W. Tough love. Taking responsibility. Not making excuses

You have the power.

image of powerful lightning bolt in blue sky
Image by Brandon Morgan on Unsplash.

“I can’t write today because—”

image of stop sign
Image by Luke van Zyl on Unsplash.

That’s it.

That’s why you have writer’s block.

“I can’t right.”

No, you can’t.

Why?

Because you just told yourself you can’t.

Feeling defensive, guilty, or ashamed? You’re in good company. The feeling of “can’t” elicits these types of emotional responses, which then compound our “can’t” feelings. It’s a slippery slope, and once you start to fall, you pick up an enormous amount of speed.

“But I have a legitimate reason.”

Perhaps you do, and the occasional, “I can’t write today because I really need to go grocery shopping so I have something to eat for dinner tonight” is valid. But mind that slippery slope. Losing your balance but recovering it is one thing. Falling is quite another. And it doesn’t matter what you put after the “because.”

“But I can’t because I’m busy.”

So carve out five minutes, even if it’s right before you fall asleep.

“Can’t because I hurt my hand.”

Dictation software doesn’t require typing.

“Can’t because I feel my writing isn’t good enough.”

Everyone feels that way. It’s normal, and the best thing you can do is write anyway.

“But, Mary, you don’t understand!”

Yes, I do. Because I’ve been there. I’ve made those same excuses, and in the end, I realized there was no one and nothing to blame but myself. I understand that you don’t think you can. I understand you put that limitation on yourself. I understand finding legitimate-sounding excuses makes you feel justified in not writing. And I’m telling you right now.

image of stop sign
Image by Luke van Zyl on Unsplash.

Because the more you do it, the easier it gets, and the easier it gets, the less you’ll find yourself writing.

Down the slope you go. Past writing and on to bigger things.

image of an ice-covered mountain slope
Image by Tadeusz Lakota on Unsplash

“Can’t” doesn’t stop at writer’s block. “Can’t” weighs you down, stops you from trying, doing, accomplishing. “Can’t” stagnates.

“I can’t write today.”

“I can’t leave the house today.” (NOTE: Choosing not to leave the house due to the pandemic is different.)

“I can’t get out of bed today.”

“Can’t” makes us afraid. “Can’t” grows fear into something that controls us, that tells us when to work, when to play, when to live. And if we give “can’t” enough power, we have none left.

Ready to fix this?

Drop the “’t”

“Mary, it’s not that simple.”

Actually, it is. It is that simple. The English language tells me so. Dropping the “’t” off of “can’t” gives you “can,” the opposite of “can’t.”

“But it’s hard!”

Ah, and there’s the rub. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. “Easy” and “simple” are not the same thing. The actual dropping of the “’t” is simple. Living up to that dropped “’t” is difficult. It’s not only a matter of thinking “can.” It’s a matter of believing it.

“I can write.”

“I can leave the house.” (Again, please don’t go out for no reason right now to prove a point.)

“I can get out of bed today.”

Too much too quickly? If you’re the kind of person who can switch cold turkey, more power to you. If you aren’t, start smaller and work up to this.

“I can picture the scene I want to write today.”

“I can open my front door today.”

“I can put one foot on the floor today.”

And two feet the next. Sit up. Stand up. And then…

(I know it’s a Christmas movie in November. That is not the point.)

The point is, writers block is not simply a lack of being able to write. It’s an entire mindset. It’s telling yourself “I can’t” and then believing that’s true. If we aren’t careful, “can’t” becomes our lives. Soon, not only aren’t we writing, we are waking up, deciding everything’s too hard, and giving up before we’ve even tried.

So, drop the “’t.” Grab the proverbial bull by the horns. The buck stops here. No one’s going to write or live for you. If you don’t do it, it won’t get done, and the sooner you stop believing you “can’t,” the better off you’ll be.

And you’ll have lots of lovely manuscripts too.

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