I sit in my designated spot, with my designated writing tools, and think of the designated scene I want to create.
But I can’t write a single word without sighing and frowning. Sometimes I click and scroll through the Internet. Sometimes I sit with my face in my hands.
Why did I ever think I could be a writer? I should have tried being an accountant, or an engineer, or a brain surgeon. I’ve spent so much time and energy on these stories, and these poems, and these screenplays–and what do I get out of it? A few praising comments. Many lashing criticisms. It’s all wasted time.
I’m not a real writer, anyway. Despite the fact that I’ve written, it’s not like any of the material has been worthy. Those pieces that I managed to get published? That was all luck. The editors were having a good day, and maybe one of the Great Writers Of Old sprinkled some beautiful, magical ink onto my writing to bedazzle the readers. I label myself “writer” like a clown puts on facepaint.
This is, by far, the worst type of writer’s block I have encountered. It is debilitating and emotionally destructive. “I’m A Fake” writer’s block presents itself when Insecurity and Societal Pressure And Standards gang up on you. You don’t feel worthy, and there are thousands of writers you feel are more talented, more professional, more legitimate than you.
Whether you’ve been published before or are still trying to mash together something to show agents and publishers, you’re never going to be 100% confident in your writing.
So how do I get rid of this shitty feeling?
Option 1: Write shitty words.
I don’t mean fill a page with profanities; I get a journal or notebook or open a digital file where I allow myself to write utter nonsense. I write something I think is “lesser” compared to what I think is good writing.
And then challenge myself: how can I make this good writing? Can I feel proud of this writing? Is there a single gem in here–a metaphor? A verb? A sequence of meter that came out of nowhere?
Forcing myself to write, but not forcing myself to write something good, still feels like I’m working on writing… Because I am. Seeking something good in the crap is basically what all rewriting is, but by focusing first on the terrible quality and second on the possibility of brilliance in it, I acknowledge the fact that all writing starts somewhere. Part of my insecurity and imposter feelings come from the attention I pay to the end product.
Option 2: Find shitty writing by Really Good Legitimate Writers
All those great writers I can never be like, because they’re so Writer and I’m so wannabe-writer? They had to start somewhere, too. They had to be shitty and terrible. At one point, their writing didn’t look like it was worth any attention.
But they continued trying and writing, and eventually got somewhere.
Option 3: Read a book I’ve already read and enjoyed.
Whenever I’m in doubt of my writing skills, I read a book (or book series if I’m really down in the dumps) that I already know. I’ve taken the time to read it at least once, so I know the story and can focus instead on the writing.
By re-reading something, I more easily pick up what made the writing good–but also where the writer could improve. I find solidarity with the author when I notice their skills can still be sharpened, or where they’ve deviated and tried something new.
In a sense, all writers are students and they study from each other, and there’s no textbook with answers at the back cover.
The key to defeating this form of writer’s block is to reconnect with what makes you a writer: the fact that writing is work, and you’re working to write something. It sucks, but the struggle is included (as with many, many things in life).
If writing were easy, everyone would be writing. Be steadfast. Persevere.
You are more than the shame, self-deprecation, and worthlessness you feel. I promise.