Writer’s Block Case History: He Was Stopped at the Start
One morning last month my phone rang with the barking tone for a celebrity client. He’s been an acclaimed actor since puppyhood, but in the photo he’s incognito as a mild-mannered reporter, wearing eyeglasses and a necktie (hey, it works for Superman). I’ll call him “Charlie.” Charlie is writing his memoirs…but he hasn’t begun. He’s nervous about what to say first. His fame is in action-adventure blockbusters, so should he open with an account of real-life thrills? A joke? Early life with his littermates? As an author, screenwriter, stress management blogger, and also life coach, I knew what Charlie needed. No, not a squeaky toy–that would reinforce procrastination.
He needed to manage his stress, and then get off his tail and start writing.
We met for lunch at The Ivy. I’ve never suffered Charlie the indignity of shoving him in my Gucci bag, so I requested a table for two in the garden.
While we waited for appetizers, Charlie yapped about writer’s block, inadvertently magnifying it. I explained the Law of Attraction (like attracts like). I had him take deep easy breaths to halt the production of stress hormones.
“Feeling better?” I asked when he stopped turning circles in his chair.
“I keep picturing that damned blank page!”
A nearby screenwriter nodded in empathy.
Writer’s block has plagued scribes since the first hieroglyphics were chiseled in stone.
“Stop imagining unwanted outcomes,” I told Charlie. “Bad reviews. Zero sales. Stop comparing yourself with great writers. Writer’s block is a fancy phrase for ‘fear.’ Start imagining what you do want!”
Charlie was fenced-in by a people-pleaser problem. Like many in the creative arts, he does backflips to win people over. He begs for approval. He’ll go to any lengths for acclaim. He never learned from his mom (that bitch!) to look within for self-validation.
These are the tricks I taught Charlie (an old dog but a fast learner):
- Writer’s block is a sign your editor-mind is calling the shots. Trick it by visualizing your book already published. Create a dummy cover and display that book on your desk.
- Type five-star reviews for yourself. Memorize the feeling of being a successful author.
- While writing, stay in the success-feeling-vibration.
- Write a goal: “I am happy and grateful now that [title] is a bestseller!” Read the card frequently.
- Prepare an outline with key points for each chapter.
- Get your tail in the chair, and knock out that first draft rapidly
- Give yourself permission to write a crappy first draft.
- Allow ideas to flow without editing-as-you-go. Self-judgment strangles creativity.
- Try a dictation software. Speak your first draft into a computer document to edit later.
- Or setup a free conference call account. Dial in as host, hit “record” and speak your book from your outline, one chapter/section at a time. Download the recordings. Hire a transcription service to create chapter documents. Edit this rough draft or hire a ghostwriter/copyeditor to help complete your book.
I asked Charlie to repeat after me:
“I commit to writing my crappy first draft.”
As we waited for doggie bags, I offered to create affirmations supporting Charlie’s goals.
Charlie just called. He conquered writer’s block. And it turns out he’s a doggoned good writer. His agent is shopping Charlie’s memoir proposal, and it looks like there’ll be a lucrative movie deal, too.
If you’d like your own copy of Charlie’s affirmations…
Scamper to fetch your freebies (not “Frisbie,” Charlie! Calm down!) at: WRITER’S GIFT
PS. I originally wrote this article as a guest contributor for Hasmark Services’ ONE RESOURCE FOR AUTHORS They have an incredible array of services for authors of both fiction and non-fiction and if you’ve got a book you want help writing or promoting, I suggest you go on over to their site and check it out.