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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Keep Writer’s Block at Bay by Keeping Writing Something You Get to Do Part 1

Do you have to write or get to write?

This blog is two years old today and I’m so glad I get to write it today. (Mini-brag: for two years, I published at least one post per week, which was my commitment when I started. Hooray for me!)

How often do you talk about writing as something you “get to do today”? When you talk about your writing, do you usually say:

  • “I have to write today” with a sigh of resignation and a touch of exhaustion?
  • “I have to write today” with the laser-focus desperation of a nicotine addict anticipating her/his next cigarette?
  • “I want to write today…” that trails off leaving the “but I probably won’t have time” unsaid but clearly present?
  • “I want to write today” with the confident assumption that you’re going to get what you want?

Frankly, that last option isn’t very likely. Most adults aren’t comfortable declaring what we want and then making it happen. We know that it’s more socially acceptable to decline a request by saying “I can’t” or “I don’t have time” than “Thanks for thinking about me, but that’s not something I’m interested in.” I know you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but remember, the more you tell yourself something (even if you know it’s a white lie), the truer it becomes.

When we factor in the increasing demands from our non-writing jobs or the non-writing aspects of our writing job, the amount of time it takes to maintain all the stuff we’re responsible for (home, yard, car, electronics, clothes, etc.) and the dazzling array of people to see and things to do in our so-called leisure time, it’s nearly impossible to imagine we can have time for things we want but don’t have to do.

Keeping Busy Is A Way of Life

Overscheduling and being overcommitted is a given in our culture. We learn to say “I have to” even about our hobbies. A vocation like writing, if it’s not yet something you’re regularly paid to do, doesn’t stand much of chance. When you’re paid to write, then the speculative projects that you’d love to work on get short shrift because there’s no editor expecting them on a specific date.

You almost have to say “I have to write” or you end up saying “I want to write but…”

The Catch-22 is that believing your own hype that you “have to write” leeches all the joy out of it. “I have to write” makes writing a burden. As Mark Twain observed, “work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do; play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.” 

“I have to write” is just a half-step away from the writer’s block sensation of “I have to write, but I can’t” or “I have to write, but I don’t know where to start” or any other “I have to write, but…” statement.

“I have to write, but I don’t have time” is a great disguise for resistance; such a great disguise in fact, that you don’t recognize it even while you’re putting it on. It’s no wonder that overscheduling is one of the most common forms of writing resistance.

In tomorrow’s post, we’ll talk about how to keep writing something you get to do.

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2 Comments on “Keep Writer’s Block at Bay by Keeping Writing Something You Get to Do Part 1”

  1. Susan Gray April 20, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    Congratulations Rosanne -by keeping your commitments you’ve helped writers achieve their goals. Thank you.


    • rosannebane April 21, 2011 at 8:04 am #

      Thanks Susan! It’s so much fun when passion (writing) and purpose (helping others) collide.


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