Or “writer’s block” as it’s called. First, for those of you who have been following my blog since I first published it last Fall (2014), I am sorry I haven’t written anything in a while. Writer’s block is the bane of any writer’s existence, and as anyone who writes for a living might tell you, when it hits, it can really make you feel useless. In fact, I’ve had it so bad recently, I briefly flirted with the idea of updating my résumé for a possible return to a workforce to which I said “goodbye” and vowed to never look back nearly two years ago. But then I took a look in the mirror and asked myself, “who am I?”
Well, for starters, I am an author. But I’m also a singer, a freelance journalist (though I haven’t written any news pieces in years), an amateur chef and food enthusiast, a tennis player and coach, a nature lover, a fishing enthusiast… the list goes on. So, being a writer who also happens to have all of these other interests as well, why was I stymied?
The answer is simple. After finishing my debut title, “From Fear to Faith: A Survivor’s Story,” I began the laborious task of promoting the book. In doing so, I simply stopped writing for a while, as my days were spent researching different avenues of approach into the mainstream. After a few weeks, I began to miss writing and made it a point to pick it back up. The problem was, “well, what do I write about? My flagship title is done, should I begin working on my next one now? Will that take away critical time from promoting the one that’s out? How can I start eating a new plate of food when I haven’t finished the one that’s sitting right in front of me?”
All those questions admittedly caused me to freeze. I would stare at my workstation off-and-on at different times during the day, wanting to write but not having a clue of what I should write about… until today.
Today, it dawned on me that I had lost touch with the very things that give me inspiration to tell a story. I stopped practicing yoga; I hadn’t played in any tennis tournaments in almost six months; I had stopped getting into the kitchen and experimenting, etc… all the things that gave me experiences that are the basis of great stories for any writer. And yes, all writing is-is telling a story in print, and there are many different ways to tell such a story; it doesn’t always have to be a book; which brought me right back here to my blog.
So, you’re probably thinking, “He’s done a lot of talking about writer’s block, but offered no real suggestions for managing it or working through it.” And though a good friend of mine (LJ) once said to me, “Boy, you sure know how to write a cliffhanger!” for sake of closure, I promise this blog post will not leave you in suspense, waiting for a finale. Without further ado, here are a few of Matt’s Keys to Managing Writer’s Block:
#1: Stop Pressuring Yourself to Write
In putting pressure on myself to “keep up the machine output,” for a while, I actually stopped doing the things that relaxed me, and felt guilty whenever I did… like, “how can you be playing tennis when you should be writing?” Understand that when it’s time for you to write, you will write, because YOU LOVE WRITING! There is no pressure in true love. Whether it is an activity or a person, if you love it or them, for some reason, everything just seems to flow.
#2: Relax and Enjoy the Moment
How many times have I heard my yoga instructors say it: “Be present in the moment! Don’t focus on your movement or your posture; just focus on your breath… be sure you are breathing.” We all know that breath is life, so you can translate “just focus on your breath” to “just focus on life.” If I can revert back to yoga for just a moment, a funny thing happens when you practice a posture and you focus your mind on moving breath throughout your body… you eventually “awaken” to the reality that you are more flexible than you previously thought. When you breathe and relax, your muscles open up… your body opens up. I’m learning to apply that same principle to my craft.
#3: Take a Nap
As simple as that may sound, sleep is not only vital to rebuilding and repairing our bodies. As a writer, when I get proper rest, it also tunes my receptors to receiving inspiration to write. Some of our best ideas come in those sweet moments just prior to waking up or getting out of bed; and while you should not pressure yourself to write (as I previously suggested), you should move quickly to jot down those ideas, because the longer you wait to write them down, the more space you leave for distraction, which can cause you to lose precious details.
In conclusion, I hope that these golden nuggets I’ve shared help you as much as they’ve helped me. Believe it or not, when I’m writing something that I hope helps, it is usually stems from a need that I have, or something that I need to hear. For years, many of my friends, family and loved ones have told me, “Matt, you always give great advice; you should take it yourself sometime!” Well, I haven’t always followed my own advice because usually when I’m giving it, it’s for someone else and as time goes by, I forget what I suggested to them. For me, writing it down helps.
(“From Fear to Faith: A Survivor’s Story” by author Matt D. Talford, is the recipient of two finalist honors in the 2015 International Book Awards–Best New Non-fiction and Best Non-fiction Cover Design–and is currently available at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle formats, and is also available in the iTunes Bookstore).