Overcoming Writer’s Block: An Interview with Bryan Hutchinson
We often like to say that writing the book is the hard part. Sometimes, though, it can get really hard. Writer’s block is an ever present subject in writing forums and communities, and most writers are faced with it at some point in their careers.
There are no simple tricks and techniques for overcoming writer’s block that work for everyone, contrarily to what the myriad of blog posts on this subject would lead you to believe. It is, however, almost always linked to self-doubt (or to an underlying block), and that is something everyone (not just writers) can work on.
For this, we decided to cut through all the noise out there around this subject and bring a true expert to the Reedsy blog: Bryan Hutchinson is the author of Writer’s Doubt and the founder of Positive Writer, one of the most acclaimed blogs about writing out there. What’s good about him is that he is, indeed, positive. And self-doubt has little grip on a positive person.
Hi Bryan, thanks for stopping by the Reedsy blog! You have helped a lot of authors overcome writer's block. How exactly do you do that? Do you have any strategies for getting into the zone when writing?
Those are practical questions which seek practical answers, such as using systems and routines, but those rarely work well when it comes to overcoming writer’s block, especially when doubt is involved. A better way, I think, is to share one’s story about dealing with doubt and how to overcome it. It’s in the empathy where the ability to let go of one’s fear and doubt lies.
The problem is that too many people, writers and otherwise, are too afraid to admit that they might fail and that doubt is silently eating at them from the inside. I help writers realize it’s okay to admit that doubt has a grip on them and it’s in this admission where doubt loses its control over them.
How do you think people can overcome obstacles to reach their productive goals?
It depends on each and every person and what their difficulties are. There is no one size fits all. However, with that said, people are more likely to reach their productive goals if they are working in an area where they are willing to endure, even enjoy, the struggle of reaching those goals.
Writers will sit for hours in front of a computer and not write one word, but when the muse comes and the fingers start moving. There isn’t a writer in the world who would regret the struggle of sitting there with nothing to write. It’s our passion that enables us to endure, even enjoy the pain of not writing until we can write again. Don’t take a job you hate if you can help it. Figure out what your passion is and find a job related to it in some way.
Many independent authors encounter long periods of writer’s block because they are seeking validation or approval on their work. Do you think people doubt their writing because they judge themselves or their own ability too much?
Yes. By far this is the biggest problem all creatively inclined people deal with and it starts in early grade school with, well, grading. We are taught early that all of our work will be graded and unfortunately we start grading our own work even before we do the work.
The problem is we are not fair graders when it comes to our own work. We are D givers, until someone says it’s good and that inhibits us from doing the work we could be doing if we didn’t grade ourselves. That’s why we need to stop seeking perfection and approval.
Being someone who has both overcome self-doubt and managed to publish your own books, do you think that Writer’s Doubt extends beyond the writing stage?
Self-doubt affects everyone in every aspect of their lives. I’ve heard from people in a lot of different fields who have read my book “Writer’s Doubt” and found it extremely helpful and they’re surprised because it is supposed to be for writers. The reality is we all deal with doubt and I just happened to write about it in the context of writing, but anyone reading the book can apply it to the context of their lives and their work.
Have you ever been faced with writer's block? How do you usually deal with it (over here at Reedsy, we just go for a walk)? Leave us your experiences and tips, or any question for Bryan, in the comments below!