Writer’s block is just another form of anxiety. There is nothing romantic or sexy about it. Don’t therapists say the first step to recovery is to admit you have a problem? It took me years to diagnose myself. Now that I have, I can’t believe how obvious it was! Why wasn’t I writing my book, the one I’ve been talking about for over three years? What kills me is that I write all the time. I write at work, I write at home, in the park and in the barn. I write everywhere, as long as the writing has nothing to do with what I lovingly call The Damn Book.
Writer’s block is a simple phobia, like fear of flying, or spiders or snakes. What am I afraid of writing The Damn Book? I’m still sort of figuring that out. There are theories (fear of success? Anxiety about being good enough?). I’ll get back to you on that. For all practical purposes the Why doesn’t matter all that much. What matters is that I know something about treating anxiety. I know from panic attacks. It is a matter of applying all those years of knowledge and experience directly to writing TDB.
You know about my business/marketing coach, Steve of SmackSmog. He has a nice way of pushing me when I am just a few feet away from the finish line and about to choke. He suggested I come up with a writing schedule that will realistically work for me. Steve isn’t the first person to point out recently that I need to take more time for myself just to play, i.e. go to the barn to see Annie, otherwise I can slip into self-sabotage writing-wise. I thought hard about it and finally had some success on Monday morning. That afternoon I wrote to Steve about my day:
I will be reporting to you periodically because it helps me be accountable. No need to respond (but I do love the pep talks and your suggestions are always helpful).
Today was my first day of working on a writing schedule that will get me to the finish line and get TDB written. I wrote from 7:30-9:30AM. In that time I wrote over 5 pages of text. That is without over-editing.
When I first sat down at my desk I turned off the Internet connection, closed all other apps except for TextEdit, (the most simple form of word processing on the Mac, without distracting edit choices) left my phone on silent and downstairs, had my cup of coffee and a glass of water handy.
Interestingly, I was very anxious getting started, the kind of anxious I associate with getting into trouble, like paying a bill I should have paid a long time ago. This is what happens when I think of writing TDB. It’s like being haunted by a ghost. I didn’t let it stop me! For once I recognized how unreasonable it was. I stopped just long enough to deep breathe. Then I wrote through the anxiety. For fifteen minutes I forced my fingers to punch at the keyboard. My brain felt frozen like in those nightmares where you run through tar to get away from the monster. Normally scare me to death (I can’t write! This is all dreck!), but I kept writing. Eventually the words started coming easier, my brain thawed out and I found my groove.
This also helped:
1. I thought about and planned my writing time over the weekend. I resisted the temptation to actually write on TDB, and instead just thought about it. I decided I wanted to write about what happens when it’s not you who needs therapy but someone you care about. Great topic.
2. After looking at my schedule for the summer I set the time earlier so that I could have time to see Annie and be available for the kids. I cut the writing time from three hours to two. I think that will work as long as I plan the topic/subject to write about beforehand, which primes the pump.
3. I got up an hour earlier and got my exercise in. If I exercise first I settle down easier.
4. I put a pad of paper on the desk. At first I was so distractible (the anxiety) that I had to tell myself “It’s just two hours, whatever it is, it can wait two hours.” Anything that wouldn’t leave my head I wrote down on the pad of paper and went back to writing.
5. I wrote over the weekend but kept it to the blogs. I actually started writing on My Horse Is My Therapist which I’ve neglected since February! I need to keep the blog and TDB separate. I know a lot of writers use their blog to write their book. It’s not going to work that way for me.
According to my files I haven’t touched the TDB since March! It feels good to break through the entropy. I am hopeful that this (treating my resistance to writing TDB as a simple phobia) is what I need to get to the finish line. I’m looking forward to Friday.
Your favorite client 😉