Everyone knows the stress of staring down an empty page. That blinking cursor ready to fly across the screen, just waiting to be told what to do. It blinks in anticipation…it can’t do the work for you, so it waits…
But you sit there, just staring at that cursor, praying that one goddamned thought worth sharing comes to mind. Anything to fill the void of that empty space in your word processor of choice. In vain, you scan the room, thinking something will spring an idea into your head and you can get past this awkward moment between you and your computer.
Writers block is very real and everyone who has ever written has experienced it at some point. Hemingway and Salinger were in this spot too; in front of an empty page with fuck all to say. Don’t think that you’re not cut out for this if you can’t think of something right now.
I’ve written thousands of blog posts over the years, and have absolutely experienced writer’s block myself. But you don’t get to thousands of blog posts without powering through a bunch of times. I don’t have a magic trick I can share that will make you suddenly immune to writer’s block, nor will I share the classic, but somewhat unhelpful advice of “just power through it.” It’s not a terrible suggestion, but it’s about as helpful as Nike’s “Just do it” campaign. I always try to remember two things when I sit down to write and the words aren’t coming.
First, remember that any writing is better than no writing. Writing is like running in that you don’t always want to do it or think that you can do it today, but you are always thankful that you did afterwards. So even if you’re not totally happy with what you’re writing, that’s still better than not getting anything down on the page. You can always go back and edit it later if it’s not great.
And second, even if you don’t have a brilliant topic you’re writing about, it’s probably better than you realize. Some of the best, most popular pieces in BirchTree history have been pieces I cranked out in less than 30 minutes on days where I thought I had nothing to say. Forcing yourself to write about something off the cuff can be liberating and get you out of your comfort zone. Escaping your comfort zone gets you flexing other parts of your creativity and can ultimately lead to better work, even if you weren’t originally excited to write about something.
There is a Woody Allen quote1 where he says that he makes a ton of movies because the more he makes, the more likely a few of them are going to be great. I love that idea! You keep stepping up to the plate and putting stuff out there no matter what. Some things will be hits, and others just won’t, but every attempt you makes you a little more likely to make something you’re proud of.
- Which I can’t find right now, of course. ↩