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Writer’s Block: When Life Gets In The Way Of Inspiration

SiStock_000021829837_ExtraSmallome mornings I can’t wait to jump out of bed to write, even if it’s just a Facebook or Twitter update. And some days, well, I feel I’ve lost touch with my writing mojo – that spark to create something that excites me. I forget this is my playground that I created and I can do whatever I want here. It was on one of those uninspiring mornings that I read Something Clever 2.0’s hilarious post How To Cure Writer’s Block and it really hit home.

I’ve been suffering from writer’s block for a month or two now. Okay, maybe three. The summer through me off track completely. (Understatement.) Distracted and disjointed from lots of travel, having a full house again, and armed with the knowledge that I would only have the kids for a short time before they turned around and left again for college, I slipped back into “Mommy Mode” the moment they walked in the door like a mom on steroids.

I wondered how did I ever juggle so much and with so much chaos and so much noise years ago when they lived at home? I blame it on my new empty nester status. After months of a peaceful and quiet existence – often too quiet – I’m now thrown by the ruckus. I get overwhelmed. And, whether I want to admit it or not, I think hormones play a part in this too – I just can’t seem to focus these days. You too, you say?

So you can imagine my surprise when the inspiration for a post finally came to me during a golf lesson one morning. In a nearly perfect pre-swing position, I froze like a deer in the headlights while staring at a tree until my instructor asked what I was doing. “I’m writing,” I whispered, club still perched midair. Sensing I was on a roll, I did what I always do to keep the creative juices flowing…I went to the car wash. Symbolic, yes? And then on my way to there – it happened again. This rush of ideas that filled me after weeks of a dry spell. So I quickly pulled over and grabbed a pen. This is what came to me – hope you’re sitting down – “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Okay, it wasn’t a gem or even original, but at least I wrote something that felt meaningful at that moment, besides my grocery list.

Where do these dry spells come from? Why can they take days or weeks or months to pass? Does everyone suffer from them? Many writers do, and I always enjoy reading how successful writers deal with the ugly monster of perfectionism or when the creative well dries up. How do you write when life gets in the way of inspiration? How do you put down in words what can’t be shared publicly? I wish I didn’t feel like all the stars need to be in alignment for my fingers to start happily clicking away at the keyboard. I agonize over every word. I obsess instead of just trusting what will come out. Not every piece is going to be a winner. And that’s okay. (So I tell myself.)  Some of the pieces I’m most proud of left me hearing crickets. You never know what will resonate with people.

When I need inspiration, I try to think of my blogging buddies who don’t let perfectionism get in the way of writing and they are fabulous writers. While I’m waiting for all the stars to go into alignment to be able to write a piece, Julie of Fabulous Blogging is practically knocking one out on an elevator ride, Sharon of Empty House Full Mind is feeling the spark and running with it, and Lisa of Grown and Flown mentioned she once wrote a piece on a subway platform. “Get overself!” I want to scream while I give myself a good shake and a much needed kick in the pants. No one is probably going to read it anyway – so write what you want – DAMN IT! But too often I forget this sentiment.

One of the best take-aways from BloghHer -the mother of all blog conferences – this past July, was: write what you want to write and not what you think others want to hear. If you’re heart isn’t in it people will know, it will show. Basically, write like no ones reading – which very well could be my case! And I don’t mean to imply that sloppiness, bad grammar or poor writing is okay, I’m saying write the best you can about what you’re passionate about and then click publish. Don’t over think it. Let that birdy fly. Just. Let. It. Go.

Or as my friend likes to say, “Sit down, shut up and write!”

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  • mike - “write what you want to write”. Great advice. Thanks for this inspiring post.ReplyCancel

  • Hayley Kaplan - I feel your pain but in a different way. I have no shortage of topics to write about because I am passionate about my subject matter even though it may not always be interesting to others. My huge problem is time management and the rude way that the clock seems to have sped up lately. But I’m working on it.ReplyCancel

  • sisters from another mister - and why is it that you have a great idea formulating as you are falling asleep … that you are sure you will remember in the morning?ReplyCancel

  • Carpool Goddess - Most of my best posts come to me when I’m in the shower, driving, working out or about to fall asleep. And if I don’t write them down asap, then poof, they’re gone.ReplyCancel

  • Abby - Not that it helps, but everyone goes through it. However, I always act like it’s the end of the world and that I’ll NEVER WRITE ANYTHING AGAIN. This happens about five or six days out of the week, so I’m a real ray of sunshine.

    But I also posted a couple of weeks ago–I got inspired!–about how sometimes I don’t even want to think about it. I just sat on the deck with a book and enjoyed the weather while it was nice (Michigan) and didn’t stress. No one would care except me, and adding that pressure didn’t help. I had/have a million ideas, but the motivation for implementation–not to mention the time?–not really there.

    I found that allowing myself to just “be” helped things to eventually land. When I have to, it’s hard. When I want to, it’s easy. 😉ReplyCancel

  • Sandra Sallin - You are so right sister! Julie writes while half sitting on a bed. She just throws it out there in 5 minutes. I can’t get my lipstick on in five minutes. I’m with you Linda. I agonize, think, worry, everything and then I write one draft, two drafts and on and on. I like the idea of writing what you WANT to write about.

    Ideas? The minute I get an idea i put it in Evernote or it will never appear in my brain again. I trust evernote because it’s always on my iPhone and my iPhone unless it’s lost is always on me.ReplyCancel

  • Helene Cohen Bludman - I am reading this while in the midst of my own creative slump. Gah! Good to know that it happens to many of us. Maybe your post will inspire me to write SOMETHING! And not just a shopping list.ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth Lee - Been there for nearly a month. It’s making me crazy.ReplyCancel

  • Nicki - It’s always nice to know I’m not alone. I read somewhere awhile ago that if you burn a citrus scented candle, it helps break the block. Sometimes it’s worked. And like you, I must write down my ideas, or there long gone. Love the post!ReplyCancel

  • Ruchira Khanna - haha…i have had such moments in such weird places that I ought to tell my mind to shut up.

    but, i guess when mind is quiet that’s when the subconscious can speak to us so, no one is to be blamed here (i think)

  • Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff - That’s awesome, I will have to try that car wash! But probably not golf lessons :-) But seriously, I think if you feel a dry spell you should just enjoy it, do other things, don’t stress it. It always comes back!!ReplyCancel

  • Melissa Reyes - I try to remember that my writing is a reflection of me, sometimes that means me not writing. ReplyCancel

  • Janie Emaus - Write from your heart and others will want to hear what you have to say. It may not always seem like it, but I do believe it’s true. ReplyCancel

  • Julie DeNeen - Writer’s block can be such a bitch!!!! But you are so right, you have to write what is in your heart, regardless of what anyone else wants you to write. And pushing through it is tough, but usually — it sparks something that then releases all those constipated words! xoxoReplyCancel

  • Michael - Writers block is never fun. I dont know if this will help you but in the past I have written about my block (you already did this) and then I find some writing challenges or prompts. Eventually one will work for me and I will push past the block and move forward. Good luck

    Visiting from SITSReplyCancel

  • Carpool Goddess - Writing prompts are a wonderful idea. The challenge will be to remember!ReplyCancel

  • Georgie Lee - Great post! When I’m stuck, I just keep at it until the words flow again. Talking out ideas to others also helps, or taking the story in a new and dramatic direction also spark inspiration.ReplyCancel

  • Middle Sage - Amen! When I’m stuck I have an imaginary therapist in my head…I go see her and I always hear an interesting storyReplyCancel

  • Grown and Flown - The advice at BlogHer was so right. We can never anticipate what readers will like, I find I always guess wrong, so we should write what we like. I have had to find a pen while still dripping wet from the shower. When I am driving I use Siri to transcribe posts and yet I can sit in front of my computer and…nothing. Go figure.ReplyCancel

  • Beverly Diehl - My battle is not to write – I can always babble on the keyboard about something stupid – but to face the things I don’t WANT to write about, the things that scare me or make me cry. The things I *need* to write about.

    On those things, hello, avoidance!ReplyCancel

  • Carpool Goddess - Abby, so “write” (ha!). Best to just let it be and it will happen instead of stressing ourselves out. It’s just hard sometimes when it appears that others write so easily and I struggle so much. Thanks for your comment :)ReplyCancel

  • Michelle Monroe Morton - Thanks for sharing it was great to read as I struggle with always letting life get in the way of me writing a book, sometimes I think it is just an excuse but I can’t focus when I have so much going on and it gets frustrating because then I start having self doubt ReplyCancel

  • Sharon Greenthal - First, thank you for the shout-out in your post today. It’s always so great to hear that other bloggers who I adore, like you, appreciate me and my writing. And you know I’m one of your biggest fans :)

    Second, writing is like a muscle (not that I know that much about muscles…) and needs to be used as often as possible to stay strong. If you’re in a slump, it’s ok – start reading, instead. Writers MUST read in order to be inspired, I think.

    Now that you have your nest to yourself again, I expect great stuff from you! And I know you can do it because you’re, well, a goddess.ReplyCancel

  • Matt Steiner - Lovely post. Writing and I have had a bittersweet relationship (in fact, I’m reading other blog posts now in order to cope with my own writer’s block). Know that you’re not alone! And the bit about ‘writing like no one’s watching’ is tough to follow but INCREDIBLY important. ReplyCancel

  • Carpool Goddess - Aw…Sharon, that’s the nicest comment I’ve ever received! Thank you from the bottom of my heart! xoReplyCancel

  • Quis Mevfvo - I always have a few backup posts ready for those times when creativity eludes me. Loved the advice you added!ReplyCancel

  • Jenn @ Something Clever 2.0 - Thank you for the shout out! I just got a Google Alert from your HuffPost pickup (wish they’d linked me, though, cough cough ;)).ReplyCancel

  • Carpool Goddess - My pleasure, Jenn! Loved your piece :)ReplyCancel

  • Jenn @ Something Clever 2.0 - BTW, what eventually worked for me was the same thing- turning off my brain. Showers, driving, etc.ReplyCancel

  • Manal The Go Go Girl - Glad to know that even the greatest and seasoned bloggers have writers block or don’t feel like writing. Stopped by to read some of your posts so I can vote. Love it!ReplyCancel

  • Jocelyn Pihlaja - I definitely can’t/won’t push writing if it ain’t there. As your post notes, sometimes that silence is telling us things about where we are mentally, emotionally, and physically. If the impulse to write isn’t there, I back off. Generally, getting out in the world and doing something (shopping at Target!) invariably brings new ideas to me within, hmmm, six minutes of people watching.

    Oh, and there’s always this option you explored here: writing about writing…and doing it very, very well. Thanks for the good read. I’m so ready to read good writing online, and you’ve assuaged that need for me today!ReplyCancel

  • Gigi J Wolf - I don’t want to brag, but I will anyway, and say that lately, I haven’t had trouble finding topics. I lost interest in educating or inspiring people, and scrapped three years of posts on my blog in favor of humor. I find things funny that most everyone thinks are perfectly ordinary. This is a reflection of my psyche and it’s sophomoric sense of humor. At least it’s working with me now, instead of against me. Every single time I finish a post however, I feel like a realtor who just sold their one listing. I break into a sweat and worry that nothing, no nothing! will ever strike me as funny again. So, I do like realtors should do: Read magazines, eavesdrop on conversations, and like you, keep a notepad handy at all times. Ten minutes later, that funny thing is as lost as a set of car keys off a fishing boat.ReplyCancel

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