One morning not too long ago I dragged myself out of bed at 5:30 a.m. after hitting the snooze button more than once. I staggered down the stairs.
I stubbed my toe going into the kitchen, clenching my teeth to keep from swearing and waking up the entire household. I took a mug of coffee and my laptop to my desk and sat down, already in a bad mood.
For the entire hour I had scheduled, I stared at the screen. The cursor blinked at me. I blinked back. I wrote nothing.
At the end of the hour I stood up, pushed in my chair, shut down my computer, and went upstairs to wake up the kids for school.
While I did give myself credit for keeping my butt in the chair (as so many writers instruct), I spent the rest of the day beating myself up for not writing anything. Here I was, teaching full-time and parenting my munchkins, and the one precious hour I had given myself I hadn’t accomplished anything. Not one thing.
Have you ever experienced this? Why do you think it happens?
There are so many reasons, and probably for most of us it is a combination of things. That morning is crystal clear in my memory, and I know why I was frozen.
I thought all of my ideas sucked.
Were they interesting to me? Sure, otherwise I wouldn’t have even considered writing about them in the first place. But would anyone else care about them?
I was sure they most definitely would NOT.
Why would anyone want to read a middle-grade novel about a quiet girl and her developing friendship with a boy struggling to find his voice in his own life circumstances? The idea originated based on kids in my own life…why would anyone else care?
Why would anyone want to read an essay about my estranged relationship with a parent? There was no action, no major trauma, no climactic confrontation. It just…happened. Who would find that interesting?
Why would anyone want to read a blog post about writing? Who am I to tell people how to create a writing life? They will think my ideas are stupid.
And so on. Because I let those thoughts in, because I let them pull me down, I wrote nothing.
Mission accomplished, inner critic. Well played.
Do you believe that no one will care about your topic or story?
Listen, those thoughts that I shared above? Those are still in my head. They are loud even now, while I’m writing this. No one will care about this, Stephanie.
Maybe. But I’m still typing. That morning from not too long ago was a turning point for me. I had decided to schedule writing time. I had prioritized it above sleeping in a little later. I had shown up. And that was GOOD.
But it wasn’t enough to just show up. I had to also manage my thinking or I would not use the time to produce work…which is the whole point!
I still get stuck. But when I do, I take action steps to avoid a repeat of that morning, like standing up, stretching, breathing intentionally, free writing, etc. Most importantly, I remind myself of something really important:
That thing I’m writing right now? No one else ever has to see it.
Action steps for moving forward with writing when frozen:
Part 1: Manage the thinking.
- Identify the problem. (Most likely you are not putting words on the page. Or you are, but then promptly deleting them. Or you are nit-picking one paragraph. In other words…you are stuck.)
- Stand up. (Seriously.)
- Close your eyes and breathe. (Stay with me.)
- Notice what thoughts are in your head. (This topic is dumb… No one will want to read it…)
- This might be “out there” for some of you, but visualize yourself putting those thoughts off to the side. Maybe in a box, or on the desk next to you. Don’t try to get rid of them, because they will only get stronger. Just let them be there.
- Sit back down. You are in charge, not that voice in your head. That voice is not to be mistaken as YOU. It is FEAR talking.
Part 2: Put words on the page.
If words still don’t come after Part 1, try one of these to open the floodgates:
- For 10 minutes, write whatever comes to mind. Do not lift your hand from the page or keys, do not delete, do not erase. Keep going until the time is up.
- For a little more focused writing, do a 10-minute free write answering a specific question. Why does this topic matter to me? What is this character’s problem? What do I want to share with my reader?
- Choose a writing prompt and write to it. (There are a million prompts for every genre online.)
Write anyway, writers. Your story is important, for no other reason than the universe chose you to share it.
P.S. Need a little extra support with managing that inner critic? Let’s talk! I offer a free, no-commitment 45-minute coaching call where we can talk about anything you like.