Overcoming writer’s block is something every writer must face. For new writers over fifty, it can be particularly challenging. We feel a sense of urgency as the years creep up on us. We often feel as though we are playing catch up and we have the nagging feeling that everyone else knows more than we do. The next thing we know we’re comparing our insides to everyone else’s outsides and coming up short.
Writer’s block sounds something like this in the late-blooming writer’s mind, “I’m too old. It’s too late. I’ve missed my chance. What I’m writing doesn’t really matter. It’s all been said before. Her book is so much better than mine. Her article was so clever, mine doesn’t compare. What am I thinking? I should get back to reality and do the laundry or mow the grass, or get a real job. I should be spending my time exercising, or visiting the sick, not writing.” Need I say more? It’s the descent into every late-blooming writer’s hell.
Late blooming writers do face unique challenges. We sometimes have health issues to contend with, problems that slow us down and interrupt our progress. We may have the pressures of caring for a family member or an uneasiness with technology and keeping up with the practical aspects of the ever-changing publishing world. If we’ve spent our lives engaged in a wholly different career or none at all, there is a sharp learning curve.
We do have to own that we may not know as much as our thirty-something counterparts or the woman with an MFA. It’s about self-love and self-respect and not comparing apples to oranges. What we are doing is important. What we bring to the written word as a fifty, sixty, seventy or eighty-year-old writer is something that youth can never duplicate.
We also carry with us one of the best sources of motivation on the planet: a sense that time is limited; that we may not have tomorrow; that today may be as good as it gets. We can’t put off what is most important to us any longer or we will indeed run out of time. When this wave of truth washes over us we have two choices, 1) run in fear far away from ourselves, or 2) get back to work. I, for one, work best with a deadline!
Running in fear looks like a steady stream of avoidance thoughts and behaviors, most of which can be summed up in the writer’s block list of excuses above. We can spend hours, days, weeks or months wrestling with our demons or, we can get back to work. We can mow the grass, take out the garbage, bake cookies for our grandkids, knit wool scarves for our grown children for Christmas, or we can get back to work.
I will never say that staring down our demons is a waste of time, because it isn’t. We must just keep writing while we’re doing it. The truth, however, in my humble opinion based on my experience of feeling blocked, is that writer’s block is an excuse. It’s an avoidance tactic, a fear, and ultimately a choice. I said it. Writer’s block is a choice. Actually, it’s many little choices all piled together. Every time you choose not to write, you are adding a brick to your writer’s block.
Successful writers, published writers, are writers who write. Period. They’ve chosen to write, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, week by week. We make the choice to write every single second we sit in front of computers and press the keys. That’s it. The end of writer’s block is putting one finger in front of the other again and again and again.