How to Finish Your book
“Writer’s block will go away the moment you stop worrying about the outcome.” —Azul Terronez
So many of us listening to the show want to be writers, or maybe we want to publish our next book, but we find ourselves stalling. We feel discomfort as we stare at the blank screen in front of us. The good thing is that these feelings of discomfort and being stuck are normal. It means you are an author. Even the most successful authors have times when it feels like nothing’s coming out.
On this week’s episode of “Authors Who Lead,” I talk about why writer’s block isn’t something you need to worry about anymore and how you can get rid of it for good.
The Truth about Writer’s Block
“There’s no such thing as writer’s block.” When I first heard that, I thought, This must not be advice from a writer. It feels like everyone’s talked about having writer’s block at one time or another. But what’s really true is that writer’s block is something that you invent in your head. You don’t have writer’s block, just like a plumber doesn’t get a plumber’s block or a hairdresser doesn’t get a hairdresser’s block. None of that happens to them because it isn’t something that happens to you.
It wasn’t until I wrote my first book in thirty days that I realized the previous twenty-four years that I struggled with “writer’s block” was more about me not understanding what writing really is and what writer’s block really is.
The Blocked Funnel
Writer’s block and that dreaded blank page are less about not having enough to say and more about the fact that we have too much to say. When we face that blank page, our thoughts and ideas seem to only come in trickles. The analogy I use with my authors is filling up a bottle with water using a funnel, where the bottle is the blank page and the liquid is all the ideas and words wanting to come out of your head.
So imagine this bottle with a funnel on it. As you start to pour in the water, the funnel slowly fills up, but only drops start to trickle down into the bottle. After a while, as you keep pouring water into the funnel, it starts to overflow on the top. Things start to get messy, and the water goes everywhere except in the bottle. You start to get frustrated and think, Gosh, this should be filling up. But if you were to look down into that funnel, you’d see it’s filled with these tiny, clear marbles that look just like the water you’re pouring into the bottle.
This is why writers often say they’re working so hard and yet getting very little results. It’s not that the words or ideas are too much to fit into the bottle; it’s because your beliefs and identity around those things are blocking the funnel-like those clear marbles. Then we think maybe we need to get a bigger funnel. We buy a different writing program, read other books about writing, or take another course. We think that if we get a large enough funnel, then as we keep pouring it will eventually fill the bottle. This is when we tell ourselves we have writer’s block.
But in fact, you don’t have a block about writing at all. You have an idea block, meaning all the things you’re thinking about writing are keeping you from writing and you need to empty the funnel metaphorically. If you imagine taking that funnel, no matter how large it is, and emptying it, really getting rid of all the things that are keeping it clogged, and then you put it back on, you should be able to write. And that’s really the idea of overcoming writer’s block.
Writing Is Easy
I’ve said it before on this podcast, as an English teacher, as a professor in the university, and as a principal in education for twenty-five years, what I’ve observed is that writing isn’t hard at all. Technically, it’s just one word after the other. But it becomes difficult when we start to put pressure on ourselves.
Where did the pressure start? Typically, it started in school. Not everybody had this experience, as some of us loved showing up and turning in the papers we were assigned. But the majority of us dreaded the writing experience, mostly because we were trained not to be writers, but rather to be editors. We were so focused on grammar, punctuation, and the final grade of the paper that it became stressful.
We were rewarded for following directions and not for being a writer. A writer has thoughts of why they are writing, what their purpose is, and the impact they want to make on the reader. Not about what grade they’ll get for following the rubric, or if people like their writing. Most of these worries are out of our control.
This is why I say writer’s block will go away the moment you stop worrying about the outcome. Writers need to show up on the page with unique ideas and perspectives and not worry about the things they can’t control.
Control and Creativity
As a creator, there are things that we can control and things we cannot. When we release our worries about what is out of our control, we get rid of what we think of as writer’s block. In this episode, I give many examples of things that we can control, such as the number of words we write each day, and examples of things we can’t control, such as how many people like our book.
As you listen to these examples, I’m sure you can identify with them as a writer. I want you to realize that sometimes we create writer’s block with things that have nothing to do with writing.
Now it might be slow at first, but you can train yourself to make your way through these writing blocks or the perceived writing blocks by emptying your head. Always remember that when you have a block, it’s usually made up. It’s not real.
You are meant to write this book. You’ve been thinking about it. Maybe you’re even working on it. I want to encourage you that if you’ve put it down, empty the funnel and return the page because you got this. This is your time. This is your time to write a book, and you can do it.
Our community here has so many great things coming up that will help you find confidence in your book and help you get your book out into the world. We’re very excited about the membership program that we will be talking more about here in upcoming episodes. Don’t let your ideas die inside of a hard drive or in a notebook, the way I did for so many years. It’s time to finally get them out of your head.
I hope you enjoyed this episode about overcoming writer’s block. What was your biggest takeaway from this episode? In the comments, share your biggest challenge to writing your book.
That’s all for this week. If you have a message inside you that needs to be written, know that you can write the book that’s been on your heart. Don’t delay—get out of your head and put words on the page today!