• Writer’s Paralysis

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in Strategies     Comments 11 comments

    I would like to propose an alternative to the often discussed concept of writer’s block: writer’s paralysis, from which I believe I am currently suffering. Never mind that I invented the term and am diagnosing myself with it; I am positive it exists, and I have fallen victim to its powers. Perhaps you can relate, or perhaps you too have the symptoms.

    See, when I think of the term writer’s block, I envision a person staring at a blank computer screen with zombie-like eyes, a head filled with nothing but a coffee buzz, and completely void of any inspiration. That is not my problem. Yes, I always have a steady stream of coffee slightly muddling my thought process, but I am definitely not lacking on the creative musings; in fact just the opposite. I have multiple ideas floating around between my ears. I have a whole book ready to submit, I have begun a new one by writing chapters silently to myself while I drive down the Mopac, and I have mentally written an entire children’s book about an obese cat, illustrations included. The problem is, none of it is going on paper, and the book isn’t getting sent out because I am spending my mental energy on other things. Annoying, stupid adult things—fears, worries, anxieties, money, bills, and an ongoing dispute with my seemingly incompetent health care provider. Gross. I am paralyzed.

    My mornings go like this. Instead of waking up, pouring my delicious cup of Folgers Columbian and then sitting down to write the most beautiful and life-changing prose of all time, I wake up, sit down, stop breathing, look at Craigslist, squeeze out some freelance work, and completely avoid anything creative at all while my coffee turns cold and putrid. See, I have the inspiration, I have the material, I have the ideas, but I am completely stuck when it comes to following through. My brain is too overloaded with stressed-out crap to produce anything worthy.

    I have been talking about this a lot with a friend of mine who also works from home and does random freelance jobs. She too finds herself sucked into this all-consuming work-thought related vortex, and finds herself avoiding her passions and the things that get her excited about life. We have talked about ways we can break this annoying, paralyzing cycle, and continue working on the things we really care about.  Personally, I know my first step is to make a mental note of how I am using my time.  Often when I am overwhelmed or worried, I will just want to turn off my brain and think about anything else, so I soon find myself typing in this fateful web address—facebook.com.  Cue Beethoven’s Fifth.  What a waste of time.  Do I really need to look at wedding photos of the girl I had one class with in college?

    Social media is just way too easy to distract yourself form the truth at hand.  It needs to end. (Side note—do you think Mark Zuckerberg wastes time looking at Facebook when he is trying to avoid actually working on … Facebook? If I see him prancing around the streets of Austin, I will ask, and then punch him for creating the single most distracting website known to man, and then ask to borrow ten dollars.)

    So these are the things I have been thinking about to help cure myself of writer’s paralysis and get the good stuff flowing again.

    1. Seriously stop procrastinating through social media.
    2. Specify a certain amount of time to look for work if needed, and then move on to other things.
    3. Wake up earlier, and get necessary tasks done as soon as possible, like calling my healthcare provider for the 900th time, or writing that article I am not looking forward to.
    4. Exercise more and chill out. (Black Swan sweaty candle lit yoga anyone?)
    5. And most important: Allow myself time to write for myself.  Not an article, not a cover letter, but what I want to write.  My ideas, my dreams, my future New York Times Bestsellers…just saying.   This may be an hour a day, or all Saturday morning, I have yet to decide.  But what I do know is this: I must turn these ideas into reality, and quick.  Because it was this kind of writing that sent me down this career path in the first place, and it is this kind of writing that makes my soul sparkle brighter than Richard Simmons’ best leotard.


    I hope you are not suffering from writer’s paralysis, block, or whatever it may be.  But if you are, try to focus, breath, and make time for your art. If all else fails, go out for queso and margaritas with your funniest friends, because that can fix just about anything.


    Katie’s work has been featured in Austin Lifestyle Magazine, Redbook Magazine, Thrillist.com, and Homerun.com. She is also excited to be contributing to the new Austin publication BE Mag, launching its first issue this November. Prior to moving to Austin, Katie worked as an associate producer for an NBC affiliate in South Florida.

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    David Duhr

    Mark Zuckerberg is worth like $15,000,000,000 and you want to borrow $10 from him? Hell, I’ll loan you ten bucks myself. It’s one of the many, many similarities Mark and I share–the ability to loan you a sawbuck.

    Focus is always an issue, time is always an issue, but every one of us has the ability to find a balance. Your 5-Step Plan looks like a good start, but don’t be afraid to add to it (or subtract from it) as new problems arise. Because they always will.


    My version of this (besides the obvious Twitter compulsion) is that, well, the three beautiful stories I have in my head, I can’t decide whether they should be short stories or short films, so to procrastinate, I watch movies in the guise of “research”.


    Ah, research. My favorite way to procrastinate because it’s still semi-productive :)

    David Duhr

    Good call, Raynola. Or a story you’re working on suddenly reminds you of another writer’s style, so you decide to take a break and read that writer’s entire oeuvre … until two months have passed and you’ve forgotten all about your own damn story.


    Oh yeah, those cover letters and resumes require a lot of creativity and attention to detail. I feel so zonked after writing them that I want to mess around on Reddit or Facebook (or con myself that I’m being productive by job searching on Craigslist). Loved the article; insightful, and it really made me laugh!

    David Duhr

    Ah yes, the Craigslist job search. Where you begin by searching for writing/editing jobs in Austin, but then four hours later find yourself looking through the Biotech/Science listings in Tacoma; and you don’t even know jack about science.

    Leah Kaminsky

    I struggle with this too, as evidenced by my presence here right now. It helps somewhat to schedule “just me creative time” into spots when I feel most, well, creative, and not let anything interfere. Unfortunately, I still generally need an hour to get me into the right mode. I wonder if doing silly, no-consequence writing exercises would help? It also really helps to have a little app called “Freedom” to turn off all access to the internet on my MacBook Pro for a set period of time. You can override it, but only by force-shutting down your entire computer,… Read more »

    David Duhr

    Exercises work for some. I’ve never found much success with them, but I know others who have. Justine does the Morning Pages from the Artist’s Way, where every morning she freewrites until she fills three pages.


    Seems to work pretty well.

    Thanks for visiting, Leah.

    Wesley Belk

    Otherwise known as brain/writer overload! I’ve had this problem for a couple years now. I have so many ideas I WANT to get on paper or .. screen, whatever, that I get bogged down and don’t put ANY ideas down.. :( Maybe that’ll change soon.. Good article/blog thingie.. :)

    […] has written about (and had) writer’s block before; now she talks about it, live (recorded) and in the flesh (in […]


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