The Noise In Your Head: A Different Kind of Writer’s Block
#DailyWings: “It’s all right to do things the way you want. There is no map to life, no blueprints to survival, you can create your world day by day if you have a clear vision and an unwillingness to give up.” -John O’Callaghan
The first time I drove a car, I was seven years old. My back was propped up against the seat of an arcade racing game at one of the pizza joints in Boston. My two best friends at the time, twin sisters wearing ponytails and matching choker necklaces, watched and waited eagerly for their turns to play. I clutched the plastic wheel in front of me, eyes fixed on the screen. But the whole time, all I could focus on were my friends’ cheers in the background and the shadow of our mothers hovering above my head.
I ended up maneuvering around like an old grandma – I was either too fast or too slow, and kept bumping into trees and the vehicles in front of me. After a few moments, my friends looked away, bored with my game. The race ended as all the cars braked to a screeching halt, and two pixelated words showed up on the screen: Game over!
It took a few tosses for me to realize no matter how many silver coins I slipped into the slot, I wasn’t going to get any better at the game so long as I kept getting distracted. I couldn’t help it, though. Embarrassed, I hopped off the seat to let one of the twins try next. My seven-year-old pride dug in: How could something that looked so simple end up in disaster?
I’d been driving for that checkered flag at the end of the race, but what I had really been going for was that grownup pat on the shoulder, the rumple of my mushroom-cut hair and the half-impressed, half-envious looks on my friends’ faces.
Now, I’m nearly 21 and my driver’s license was issued to me just barely a few months ago. Unlike the faded student identification card hiding in the back of my wallet, the newness of my driver’s license is evident in the shiny exterior and blue airplane signifying the mark of North Carolina. With this barely-larger-than-my-palm card of plastic, I officially have permission to be on the road – the real one this time.
This is what I must get through every day on my way to work…
Nowadays, the commute between my apartment and the location of my summer internship lasts about forty-five minutes, so my license comes quite handy these days. Luckily, I don’t drive the way I did back when I was seven years old. It was, however, difficult to focus when I first started practicing: I kept getting nervous with my parents sitting in the backseat (“just in case”), and I worried what the other drivers thought about me, this slow beginner. But after a while, I learned to drown out these distracting thoughts and instead pay attention to what was in front of me. I learned how to be a better driver.
Lately, I’ve been struggling with my writing for similar reasons. Whenever I try to get the words down, there seems to be so much traffic in my head: I’m not good enough. My writing sucks. This blog post is going nowhere. I’m nothing but a starving artist. Everyone else writes better than me. Look at these cool indie authors and accomplished people – I’m certainly not one of them!
Unsurprisingly, this self-deprecation leads to writer’s block. Literally, there’s a block in my mind. Not because I don’t have any good ideas, but because reminding myself of all the things I’m not fills my head so there’s no room left for actual creative work. Then, something that’s supposed to be fun, something that I supposedly love to do, becomes a source of fear and pressure.
Similarly, those daydreams we all have from time to time, featuring Bestseller Lists and wide-eyed admirers, also poison my writing so it no longer seems genuine. I end up only writing what I think people want from me. Don’t let any sort of glimmering prospect of fame and glory keep you from writing quality work – quality, meaning it comes from your heart.
About a month ago, my dad told me something that I still think about every day. He said, “Wendy, just ignore all the noise around you. Don’t pay attention to what other people are doing or what paths they’re taking – everyone’s looking for something different. If writing is what you really love to do, then just do it.”
Whenever my mind starts to fill with self-doubt and other mental distractions, rendering myself incapable of writing any further, those are the words I remember. And it’s worked (so far, at least; I wrote a blog post, didn’t I?).
That being said, the real world/real life isn’t always quite that easy (if ever). There will always be people watching your moves, either waiting for you to make a mistake or building up expectations or comparing themselves to you. Ignore them.
Do you ever get this kind of writer’s block, and if so, how do you banish these distracting thoughts? What are some other obstacles or challenges you face while writing?
15 responses to “The Noise In Your Head: A Different Kind of Writer’s Block”
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