Last week I talked to a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile who’s writing a memoir. She told me she was having a lot of trouble with it—she can’t make herself write about a particular incident she seriously needs to write about.
She asked me if I had any advice: does she need a class? a group? a coach?
Now, I do this kind of work with writers all the time, helping them write what they need to write when they need to write it, so, yeah, I had some advice for her. And I’ll give it to you too, in case you’re ever up against a similar block.
Groups and classes can help if all you need is a little peer pressure to get yourself in gear, but they can make it worse if you’re really struggling with an emotional block and find yourself embarrassed to be unable to break through, especially in front of others. So before you invest in anything try these two tricks:
Give yourself permission to pause and write about this issue whenever it strikes you, even if it’s only a couple of lines between work projects that you can go back to and develop later.
Whenever you do have a chunk of time in which you’d like to write, focus first on recording some concrete, neutral, unrelated details—what you had for lunch, the view from where you’re sitting, some conversation you had recently—to kind of grease the writing wheels so the words will come out of you more easily.
Frequently it’s the effort to make two transitions at once (the transition into writing mode plus the transition into a safe emotional space) that can cause this kind of writer’s block, and it helps to take them one at a time.
Remember: you’re writing what you write not to bind yourself ever-more tightly in your painful emotional paralysis, but to free yourself so you can live this one life you get as fully as humanly possible.
NEXT WEEK: 3 Tricks for Ratcheting Tension in One Day
THE WEEK AFTER: 4 Tricks for Improving Your Fiction in One Day
Note: I’m offline for the rest of August. That’s right—three whole weeks incognito. I’m working on my second book on writing, The Art & Craft of Story: 2nd Practitioner’s Manual, to be released September 30.