Here’s something people don’t ask me now, but when I’m king of the Internet they will:
“Todd! I have writer’s block. How do I get out of it?”
And this will be my answer:
“Figure out what you are afraid of.”
Let me explain:
I read one time on the Internet that writer’s block is a myth, which is something I don’t really believe. Writer’s block is a real thing, but the name is misleading.
Back when I was in college, I wrote a piece for the school newspaper that got very popular (well, as popular as school newspaper articles get).
After that week of floating on high-fives and thumbs-ups, I proceeded to write absolutely nothing for the next several months. I was still on staff for the paper. I was actually the editor for the sports section. But I wrote zero.
It was my longest drought since I started writing.
The big gap between articles had nothing to do with a lack of ideas (I still had plenty) or a lack of talent (I knew I could write).
It come from something else, a characteristic we see in all humans, from clock-puncher to chef to Creative:
The name “writer’s block” leads us to believe we are facing a creative problem, like the Muse has somehow gone silent.
Know this – there are an infinite amount of words to be written, topics to explore, dots to connect, and new ideas to probe. There will always be something to create.There will always be something to create. Click To Tweet
If ideas are any part of your job, and you’ve been coming up dry recently, the first step is to identify what are are afraid of. Here are some things that might be keeping you from your best work (yes, I’ve been through all of them):
1. Fear of failure
The obvious one. What if your next work isn’t as good as the first? What if nobody listens to you ever again? What if this is the peak of you career and you have to scrawl messages on the bathroom wall instead because they shut down your Internet for being the worst writer of all time?
The downward spiral goes pretty far.
The Cure: Create and publish something else as soon as possible. Enjoy the transition back to obscurity
2. Fear of success
This one is a little trickier. It usually has to do with an underlying belief telling you success as a Creative is something you don’t deserve, like you are cheating the world for being good at your work and enjoying it.
Let me tell you right now – you deserve it.
The Cure: Make Creation a routine. Creation is work. Work deserves compensation. (PS – this exercise helps me a ton with the Creative routine)
3. Fear of alienating your new fans
Okay you’ve finally got some new blood in your audience. This next post needs to be a blended article that can be enjoyed from everyone to the 19-year-old biology major to the 67-year-old retiree. And it needs to be funny too. And it needs to touch the hearts of every nationality.
Yeah. Good luck with that.
The Cure: Remember who you’re writing for. And it’s not the 1,000s of people who read that one article. It’s the 10s of people who read everything else you’ve written.
4. Fear of new expectations.
This is sort of like fear of success but with one minor twist – maybe you don’t have time people want you do give.
Another immediate pressure that comes with success is “you should write more.” People will ask questions and expect answers. They will clamor for your attention and get louder and louder and louder.
The Cure: Stick to your game plan. The world is noisy, and when your audience grows, you will feel responsibility to feed the animals. Don’t give in. Just keep doing what you do best. Remember, you will fear a cage the most. Don’t allow Creativity itself to become that cage.
5. Fear of Chumbawamba-ism
“I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down!”
Ah, yes, the infamous one-hit wonders. If you are even the slightest bit like me, your first success as a Creative will send you reeling down a train of thought that reminds you of every one-hit wonder that ever lived.
You will start to feel perhaps its your destiny to join them. Your one big contribution to the world is now over and you should meet up with these Chumbawumba fellows and have coffee or something.
I doesn’t have to be true. And even if it is, you don’t get to decide what the masses care about. You only need to create more stuff.
The Cure: Remind yourself there is only one thing you control: Whether you keep Creating or whether you quit.There is only one thing you control: Whether you keep creating or whether you quit. Click To Tweet
Creatives really do go through ruts, whether they’ve been doing the work for 15 days or 15 years. But it always starts with fear.
Now when it comes knocking, you’ll be able to call it what it is, laugh in its face, and get back to work.