A Modest Proposal for the Preventing of Writer’s Block

No such thing as writer’s block.

You heard me. Don’t bother arguing. Chuck Wendig said it first, so you know it must be true.

But, but…well you’ve been there. I’ve been there too. You sit down at your computer, or with a clay tablet and chisel or whatever it is you happen to use to write an and…nothin’. Zip. Zero. Nada.

Diddly has moved into your brain and Squat is measuring for the new drapes. It’s not a pretty picture.

But you tell yourself it’s all in your head. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block. Gas station attendants don’t get gas station attendant’s block. Carpenters don’t get carpenter’s block.

So what’s your problem?

Accountability.

See, there are days when I don’t feel like going into work. There are days when I get in my car and I hate the thought of staying so long inside that the sun will be long gone by the time I come back out again.

But I do it anyway. Because I like to eat. Because I like living in a house with air-conditioning and running water. Because I like the idea of my wife not dying from acute ketoacidosis due to lack of insulin. Because I have to.

Writing is the same way for me. Every day I get up and I write a new blog post. Some days I really honestly don’t feel like doing it. But in the back of my mind there is someone out there who is expecting this post. You’ve got my blog in your RSS feed on your phone and if it doesn’t show up before you take your lunch break at work you’re going to wonder what happened to me.

Maybe the person I just described doesn’t actually exist. But in my mind he does. And I’m accountable to him. I’m accountable to all of you. But my other writing? You don’t know about it. You don’t know if I wrote a hundred words today or a thousand. I’m not accountable to anyone for that writing.

Maybe you’re stronger than me. Maybe you’ve got the self-discipline to sit down and work whether you feel like it or not, day in and day out, rain or shine. If you are, congratulations. You will go far in life.

But for me it can be a struggle. There are so many distractions available out there and even though I’ve written about staying committed to your writing before I still struggle with it myself. A few days ago someone tweeted this quote:

“You teach best what you most need to learn.” – Richard Bach

And it’s true. I do my best to encourage you all, and give you a kick in the pants when I think you might need it, but the truth is I haven’t got it all sorted out either. I’m working on it though.

I think fellow blogger The Hack Novelist is onto something. He opens his blog posts every day with the phrase “I wrote x words today.” He makes himself accountable for the work that no one but him sees.

I’m not going to do the same thing exactly, but what I am going to do is find someone to be accountable to. Probably someone out there in Twitterland. Someone who I’ll go to every day and say, “I wrote x words today.”

You may not like that specific scheme, but I encourage you to try something similar for yourself. Make yourself accountable to someone else and see if it doesn’t help you be more consistent with your goals. Because somewhere in the back of your mind you’ll be thinking, “I don’t feel like writing today, but if I don’t I’m going to have to tell Steve that I wrote all of zero words. Guess I’ll pound out at least a few hundred so I won’t look like a total bum.”

I think we’ll all be better for it. Because even though writing often seems like a solitary process, the truth is that this is the place where we need each other more than ever.

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12 responses to “A Modest Proposal for the Preventing of Writer’s Block

  1. Writing: “a solitary journey with others of like mind.”

  2. But in the back of my mind there is someone out there who is expecting this post. You’ve got my blog in your RSS feed on your phone and if it doesn’t show up before you take your lunch break at work you’re going to wonder what happened to me.

    Maybe the person I just described doesn’t actually exist. But in my mind he does. And I’m accountable to him.
    ——
    I’m here. I look forward to your blog every morning. Not only that, but sometimes I forward it to people I know who would appreciate it. They fall into 2 distinct groups: writers and zombie afficianados.

  3. I think you may be on to something!

  4. SOMETIMES THERE IS A BLOCK FOR A WEEK BUT THEN IDEAS FOR CARTOONS COME HALF DOZEN AT A TIME. MY BLOG IS ONLY 10 MONTHS OLD SO I HAVE 20 YEARS OF STUFF TO UPGRADE AND KEEP THINGS GOING. STILL, I PLAN TO REDUCE TO 3 OR 4 A WEEK. I AM DISAPPOINTED WHEN MY FAVORITE BLOGGERS HAVE NOT POSTED IN A WEEK AND I LOVE THE COMMENT EXCHANGE FROM BLOGGERS THAT VISIT ME. IT HAS BECOME THAT I CAN’T IMAGINE DAYS WITHOUT THE EXCHANGE.

  5. Peter Saint-Clair

    I struggle with this myself. I’m the type of person that literally dives into a project because of some great idea I’ve had. It’s all I focus on for days or weeks, but when the idea stops being shiny, I stop. As you could probably infer, I have a lot of unfinished projects sitting on my hard drive right now because I don’t force myself to finish. Maybe some of my ideas aren’t worth finishing, but then again, maybe some of the unfinished projects I have taking up space on my hard drive would be Earth shattering – projects that could make me millions so that I’d never have to work again. Ok, probably there isn’t anything like that on my computer, but still – I do have trouble finishing the things I start. Maye the next time I start a project, I’ll do as you suggest and find someone to be accountable to. Someone who’ll bash me about the head when I “don’t feel like it”. As always, good post.

    And on an aside – though I hardly ever speak to you, yours is the blog that helps me carry on when I don’t want to blog. Not all of your posts are “my thing”, but your blog, in general, is an inspiration to me. Thanks for that, sir, even if it wasnt your intention!

  6. Thanks for this post, Albert. Yes – there are days (and weeks) when I may not be as enthused about writing as I’d like. Treating it seriously whether I “feel it or not” is key. As writers, we’re all in this together.

    Cheers to more days of writing accountability!

  7. We should try to make a twitter hash tag for reporting this. Or just start kind of an in network where people keep each other up on their word counts.

    Personally, I’d love to find an achievement based website for this. If you report for 10 days in a row regardless of count, get a small badge. Verify through a word scrambler that you did 30,000 words in 30 days, then you get a major achievement. Of course there would be a ton of cheaters, but it would be nice for the average community member. Unfortunately my web skills aren’t what they were in high school, so I’m not in a position to make it.

  8. Blogging is a therapy that all creative people can benefit from. Even if it’s just to write Crap on a cracker I can’t think of a thing to say …. Usually that’s enough to get you going. You’ve written today and today that is enough. Of course reading a funny blog like this can give you a little somethin’ to read and somethin’ to think about too.

  9. There’s definitely something to be said for accountability. I hate being accountable to anyone. Who wants the pressure? I don’t even want to be accountable to myself! (How pathetic is that???) But, when I do find myself in a position of being accountable I am not only more productive, I am often more cheerful about the work that needs to be done. I’m doing something for someone else and that makes me feel better. Strangeness.

    I’m one of those people that looks forward to your daily posts. So thanks for doing them, and if you need someone to feel accountable to, well, here I am. 😉

  10. Amen, Brother.
    Accountability and Fear—those are the Lenny and Squiggy of “Writer’s Block.”
    I’m of the Sit-Your-Ass-Down-And-Do-It school of cure.

  11. You have strong reasons about why you should go to work and why you blog. However, what are your reasons for wanting to write that other writing?

  12. I found a hash tag on twitter that works something like this. its #writinggoal

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