Even now, writing about writer’s block, I get writer’s block. What should I say? Do I have anything to say? How should I say it? Is this dumb? No, this is pretty good. No, it’s crap.
Welcome to my brain. Maybe it’s like yours.
Truth is, writing of whatever kind is difficult. So let’s start there. Writing. Is. Hard.
Yeah, sometimes you hear about songs that get written in the blink of an eye. Towns Van Zandt said he wrote “If I Needed You” after waking from a dream. Scribbled it in a flash. No stopping.
That’s hardly a plan, though. That’s hardly even writing. That’s something else, channeling or something. Certainly not a remedy for writer’s block. Can you imagine? Advice: just wait for the dream. Keep the pen and pad close. Be sure to mail the dream gods half your royalties.
So, what do you do?
I’m not sure. Writing isn’t science. You’re weird for even wanting to write. You should know that. John Prine said he’d rather eat a hotdog.
The only thing I know how to do is try trick my brain.
Right now I’m on my favorite typewriter. Why? One, I look cool (but nobody’s watching me, so it’s kind of a waste — I’m alone in my studio). Reason number two: this hunk of metal helps trick my brain.
It tricks my brain because typewriters demand commitment. You can’t sort of hit the key, you have to strike it. To strike it you have to have the confidence that what you’re about to say is worth the ink ribbon.
I know, I know…that begs the questions, how do you be confident if you’re not confident?
You fake it. You write about nothing, anything. Sometimes, and I really don’t know why, I start with THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. I really have no explanation why that’s my first line. It ends up going nowhere. It’s the worst line ever, but for whatever reason it’s a go-to. I suppose I could start with SING A SONG OF SIXPENCE A POCKET FULL OF RYE or perhaps BLOOP BLOP WHAMMER JAMMER HIGH HO SILVER. (I’m making all this up right now. I hope that’s obvious.)
Because you just have to fake it enough to get going. A typewriter is a locomotive. Once in motion it’s hard to stop. You keep clacking about nothing until you hear a rhythm. Make mistakes, misspell words. Use wrong words. Any words. Just don’t stop.
What you just might find is writing about nothing leads to something. At the very least it leads to less thinking. Do you know how little thinking I needed to write BLOOP BLOP WHAMMER JAMMER HIGH HO SILVER? Precisely zero. Writer’s block is another phrase for too much thinking. Overanalyzing. And there’s no better friend than a typewriter to push you onto the dance floor.
Speaking of, I really hate dancing. Actually, it’s not so much the dancing I hate — it’s the pre-dancing. Self-consciousness. Doubt. Peer pressure. Not knowing what to do. Dancer’s block, you might say.
But the moment I decide to do dance, I don’t have dancer’s block anymore. I’m just dancing. Now, I’m not saying it’s good dancing. I’m just saying I’ve gotten rid of the block. That was the point, right? And now that I’m in the groove, I might even make a couple mistakes that happen to look good. Maybe even stumble upon something half unique. Someone might even mistake me for a dancer.
One thing is for sure, though. I’m not standing still.
* ** Bonus Section ***
9 Ways to Get Rid of Writer’s Block
- Use a typewriter
- Use a #2 pencil and napkin
- Dictate a Voice Memo
- Transcribe a famous speech
- Go for a walk
- Call your mom
- Take a nap
- Tinker in the garage
- Fix the dripping faucet