That was when my creative process first started going awry. I continued to write, but it became more and more difficult for several years, until fear, depression, and utter burnout led me to believe I might have to give up writing altogether. I’d dreamed of being a writer since I was 8, so the idea of giving it up was not so different than the idea of cutting my heart out of my chest and tossing it into the compost bin.
I didn’t give up writing, but I did take a break from it for a while. In the meantime, I tried to write again in fits and starts, read lots of books, and tried to do things that had absolutely nothing to do with writing but that would, I hoped, give me a richer set of life experiences to draw from whenever my creative muse decided to visit me again.
Back to Dennis’s book. In the first chapter, he talks about the gift of writer’s block, a phrase that at first glance sounded about as appealing to me as “the gift of dog shit.” But I kept reading, and he continues on to describe the ways a bout with writer’s block can communicate to us something we need to learn in order to move to the next level as writers.
A big part of my creative burnout, I realize after having several years to contemplate it, came from writing out of fear. Fear of not being a good-enough writer, fear of not earning enough money to survive, fear of not getting my next writing contract, fear of losing my career altogether. Such feelings can serve a positive purpose, but in large doses, fear is utterly destructive to creativity.
There are other lessons I’ve learned from writer’s block as well, but I won’t go into all of them here today. The point is, if you’re finding yourself stuck, unable to move forward in your writing in spite of showing up faithfully day after day to get your work done, consider what might be going on at a deeper level. Are you writing what you want to write? Do you have faith in yourself and your story? Do you sense something is amiss? Are you writing in joy or in some other more negative emotion?
It might be time to take a step back and allow yourself a chance to seek out the lesson your writer’s block has to teach you.