Frances Woo: Writer's Block
Spectrum's reader Frances Woo shares her laments and strategies.
Writing seems simple enough. It's just words on a page. Almost as easy as talking, right? For me, writing is one of the most overwhelming, stressful, and exasperating processes I've ever experienced. I always have so much I want to say, yet struggle to find the perfect phrases to express my ideas. There's too much self-inflicted pressure to actually let my mind go and write freely. No matter how many ideas float around in my head, I constantly struggle with putting pen to paper. I tell myself I'm never in the "right mood" or have "better things to do" or am "too tired" to put in the work. I come up with countless excuses like these to put off having to sit down and physically write, so I procrastinate. And I procrastinate. I procrastinate for days, weeks, even months until the deadline's so close that I have no choice but to sit down and force myself to write.
The other day I had to write a short story for one of my classes and I got excited; this was a chance to actually use my creativity in a course. The deadline was about two weeks away and I started thinking of ideas immediately. I had so many directions I could go in and jotted down notes about all of them. Eventually, this initial excitement gave way to anxiety and dread over writing the actual story. It took me an entire week to pick which story outline I would go with and another to even get started. When the deadline finally came, I sat at a desk for three hours and wrote the entire thing at once. I felt so relieved after that I didn't even bother giving it a second look. After a day or two, I looked back at my story and read it through for the first time. Now that I had given myself some distance, I was able to edit out what worked and what didn't and create something I actually enjoyed.
This stressful process of cramming and procrastination ultimately helped me get over my writer's block. I've tried other methods like stream-of-consciousness writing, online inspiration, and writing prompts, but I always end up deleting them and winding up right back where I started. The only time I produce any actual work is to make everything the night before it's due. And eventually, through cycles of editing, I always end up with a finished product that I'm proud of. Though I'm extremely prone to procrastination, I've found that if I trick my brain into abiding by self-made deadlines, I'm able to jump start my creative process. And though everyone's personal processes are unique, this fool-proof method of productivity can help anyone work through their artistic and creative blocks.