Being stuck in a certain place in your story is different than writer’s block. Writer’s block is a condition that paralyzes writers and prevents them from ever getting started in the first place, or derails them so completely they can never finish that first draft. But being stuck is more like running your car off the road into the mud. You know it’s possible to get out of it, but it still feels like a big messy unpleasant obstacle in your creative life.
Right now, I am stuck. I am just about in the middle of the last quarter of my novel, and I am most definitely in the mud. Things were going so well up until now. I was writing consistently every week and my plot and characters were moving along at a good clip. And then, I hit this wall. I got…stuck.
This week’s guest post is coming to you from a fellow writing coach, Anna-Marie O’Brien. Anna-Marie describes herself as a “little bit OCD+ADD+ESP and an INFJ.” And I can tell you from experience that she’s easily one of the most intuitive people I’ve ever met. If you’re looking for someone to help get you unstuck as you write your book, Anna-Marie is very definitely who you’ve been looking for. Big thanks to her for contributing this awesome piece on why your progress as a writer might not fit the conventional norms.
Before I started my memoir, my idea of book writing was that it was a linear process—you show up to the page, you write your 500 words a day in perfect form, and in a few months you have a beautiful, publishable book. According to the writers I was studying, there were no pauses, breaks, or blocks allowed. Daily habit is a big theme among writers, and I was assured that if I showed up to the page every day, the muse would find me and the words would flow effortlessly.
Out of the entire world population, writers are the harshest on themselves when it comes to self-judgment.
No, I haven’t done a study or anything, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this was true. Based on the emails I get from writers, and the blog posts I read written by writers, I can see clearly that self-judgement is one of the biggest, ugliest problems we deal with on a constant basis.
About 75% of my clients first contact me because they feel “stuck.” I’ve only heard a very few actually use the term writer’s block but it all amounts to same thing. During that initial phone call they tell me that they’ve lost enthusiasm for their project, they can’t seem to make themselves write, they haven’t written in weeks/months/years and they’re miserable because of it. Added to their feelings of hopelessness is a hefty dose of self-judgment and guilt. They know they just have to “sit their butt in the chair and get it done” they tell me. They just need to “grit their teeth and get through it.” And they usually finish by saying, “Real writers show up every day whether they want to or not, just like any other job.”
If I believed all of these statements I would probably give up on writing too. It sounds really painful.
According to various sources on the internet, INFJs love to practice creative writing more than anything else. Now, I know that information found online can go either way on the spectrum of accuracy, but I’m inclined to agree with this statement. I’m an INFJ myself, and I actually have a couple other INFJ writer friends, so I bring some personal experience to this. But that’s not the only reason I feel this way. I also own a blog. And as the author of that blog I can see the search terms people use when they stumble across my posts. Every single day I get some form of “INFJ” paired with “trouble writing” or “difficulty writing” or “have a hard time writing.”