Writer’s Block is the Fear of Bad Writing
For the more than 10 years that I’ve been writing professionally, I have believed in writer’s block. I’ve believed in it until 30 minutes ago when Seth Godin changed everything I’ve ever thought about it.
Seth responded by saying that writer’s block is real and writer’s block is made up. He said:
What writer’s block actually is, is fear of bad writing. We are afraid to see the bad writing on our way to getting the good writing. If you tell me you have writer’s block, I will say, “Show me your bad writing.” You will not be able to do so.
One does not have plumber’s block. One does not have talker’s block, Seth said. So why does one have writer’s block?
Because they are afraid of bad writing.
It is so true.
Early this morning I opened up Scrivener to get some work done on my novel. In the 45 precious minutes I had while my two children were asleep, I wrote a total of 398 words. I kept saying to myself, what’s wrong with you? Why can’t you write anything? Where are you so blocked?
I wasn’t blocked. I was afraid of bad writing. I get that now. I was allowing myself to be “blocked” because I was writing that particular section with the intention of it being workshopped. I was afraid of producing something bad, so instead I barely produced anything at all.
What I should have allowed myself to do, which I now understand, is write crap; write a shitty first draft, as Ann Lamott suggests in Bird by Bird, and edit it later. Because as all writers know, you can’t edit a blank page.
Writer’s block isn’t real, it’s just fear of bad writing. But you can’t get to the good writing without the bad, so it’s time to face that fear and write through it.
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