I’ve long battled with the notion that there was such a thing as a “Muse” or “Writer’s Block,” and I still firmly believe both and total shit concepts. You don’t need inspiration to work, and there’s nothing holding you back but your willingness to put the fingers to the keys and bleed.
That being said, I am fully willing to admit that some days writing is much harder than others. Some days you just don’t fucking feel like cranking copy, but your clients don’t much care. Some days you’d rather nap in a hammock or go to the grocery store and buy half priced meat. Some days you’d rather clean house than write.
I have those days more often than I’d like to admit. It’s not because I hate this job — in fact I love this shitbag of a career I’ve got. As insane and painful and pitiless as it is, it’s exactly where I need to be. But some days I still struggle to break the seal on my day.
Breaking the Seal
For me, writing is like taking the ACTs. It’s a very long process that requires intense focus and the right answers, every time. The first article of the day is the hardest, it almost has to be pushed out with brute force… that’s what I call “breaking the seal.” After I squirt out that first mucus-covered screaming pile of words, the rest come easy… like with any multiple birth.
But breaking the seal, that’s the thing. Some days it’s the hardest thing I’ll do. A lot of writers struggle with it, so I’ve made a short list of how to get the ball rolling when you’ve discovered it’s actually a cube.
#1. Write a personal blog entry. Guess what I do when the writing machine just won’t fucking start? I write this blog. Once the first one’s out, like I said, it’s easier. So I give you guys a pile of putrid garbage and I save the glorious afterbirth for the clients.
#2. Plan to edit heavily. If you don’t want to start with something that’s wholly yours, plan to edit the first piece of the day heavily. It’s not you, it’s the process, and you suck first thing in the morning.
#3. Start with the easy stuff. Whatever it is that you know the most about and could write in your sleep — that’s where you start. Start with a light piece on kitten farts or a basic something something. Start easy, end hard.
#4. Write that thing that’s plugging you up. Sometimes, it’s not the writing that’s the problem, it’s trying to get a handle on something that’s upcoming. If you know you’ve got a piece in the hopper that’s going to be a bear, or you’re trying to impress somebody with it so badly that it starts to clog the writing works, write it first. Write it first, even if it’s shit. You can always write it again. With the blockage removed, sometimes the writing starts to flow.
#5. Have a drink. I wish I were kidding, but alcohol is the grease that lubes the writing machine. Don’t drink until your brain’s pickled, but a drink can help calm your anxieties about what you’re about to do, tear down your self-imposed rules and get you started.
That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. Now go away.