Removing Writing Blocks

It wasn’t until I went on vacation last week that I realized just how blocked my life is.

Was. Let’s say was because now, some of those blocks are gone. Permanently.

I’m not just a poet, and few people are. My day job is writing. That’s right — I write all day long. For a living. And it’s great.

Until it isn’t, of course. And that’s the situation I found myself in just two weeks ago.

As a freelancer, I have to find my own clients. It’s sometimes a struggle until you develop a reputation and name recognition. But here I sit, 18 years into a freelance writing career, and I no longer have to find clients. They find me.

It seems a lot of them found me, in fact. I’m inundated and turning away new clients. That’s a good dilemma.

It’s also a sign that my work life is already maxed out. Boy, is it ever. There were weeks — hell, months — where the days blended and quitting time was when I finally fell asleep, for I was ruminating far too much about work (see this great TED talk on ruminating).

That’s the mindset that I took on vacation. And it’s the one I left on the beach.

But I’d started what I call my Fall Cleaning before vacation because I knew I was at my limit. I knew I couldn’t take one more thing. I knew if I did, it would come crashing down.

  • I dropped a client that was delivering more work than the pay justified.
  • I left a group that was causing me stress, not joy.
  • I created a list of tasks that helped me get back on track with what I really want to be doing (poetry).
  • I carved time for me projects out of each work day.

Reclaiming Your Writing

Those last two items — that’s where your writing can really benefit from removing the writing blocks in your life. I’m not saying writer’s block — that, in my opinion, doesn’t exist anyway. I’m talking about those things that make it damn tough to even get to your favorite projects. The work stuff. The exhaustion. The pushing it to the back burner. That’s the stuff we want to ease up on so that the writing can flow.

It’s like I was telling a writer in a forum. He found himself stuck on a book project, and was beginning to doubt his commitment to it after five years. (And again, that’s not the mythical writer’s block — that’s fear of moving forward.) What I told him is advice I took for myself, too.

Move “You” time to the beginning of the day.

Don’t save your “personal” writing for the end of the day. Move it to the first hour of your day. Why shouldn’t you give yourself your best hour?

Stop it with being perfect.

Show of hands: How many of you are stuck in going back over what you wrote the previous day? Perfection is a fickle bitch. It sucks you right into the editing Loop of Hell. What you need is permission to move on. I don’t care if you say it to yourself or make yourself a card that says it — give yourself a “what the hell” license. As in “What the hell, I can always delete it later.” Just write. Don’t look back.

Set daily goals.

Today, you’ll write this section, tomorrow you’ll tackle that little bit of research, etc. Sit down with a goal in mind, bigger than “gotta write something.” Just like you plot out a novel, plot out your workday.

Stop with all the revisions.

Seriously. Just write the damn thing first. Then you can go back and rip it to bits. If it helps, use the upcoming NaNoWriMo to plow through (https://ywp.nanowrimo.org/).

There are no end of things you can do to break down those roadblocks that are pushing your writing farther from where you want to go. These are a few things that can get your started.

What are your most effective ways of reclaiming your writing time from a busy schedule or a stressed life?

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