Yesterday over the course of an entire hour, I somehow managed to crank out just one sentence for a project. I still have yet to iron out even the foundation, and to top it all off, this is with me hopping on social networks and checking email less than ever before.
Cut out distractions, they say. Set a timer and only do your work during that time, they say. Let your subconscious work out all the details, they say. Step away, exercise, get some fresh air, they say. Well, I'll have to tell ya, everything they say isn't a fucking winner.
Sometimes the creative force that helps us string thoughts and ideas into something real recedes into its cave. Sure, it's still there, but getting it to come out isn't as simple as "getting inspired". Writer's block stretches far beyond the act of pen to paper, keyboard to digital one's and zero's.
All creative people come face to face with these walls that seem impossible to scale. Like the classic version of Donkey Kong, you're trying to work your way up and then boom, you're back at the bottom again. Maybe it's not writer's block, but more simply creative block.
All in all, it's just a phrase, a jumble of words that we give something that's so frustrating, and more accurately titled "Sonavabitch!"
What exactly is causing the block? Is it a lack of practice or a slump in work ethic? Is it overwork and stress? Is it pursuing something because bills have to be paid versus pursuing something because bills have to be paid, and you love it? Is it a chemical imbalance in the brain that has you feeling beyond depressed even though you know that we're living in the most amazing time in human history?
It could be a number of things, but there's a damn good chance the cause is fear.
You're afraid of what others will think. You're afraid it will flop. You're afraid it isn't your true calling. You're afraid you won't be able to support yourself or your family. Brian Koppelman reminded me of this the other day on Vine where he shares awesome little insights that apply to far more than screenwriting.
Fear will never go away, and it'll still be there even long after you've accomplished the most amazing of goals.
The difference between the average and the seemingly extraordinary is they show up.
They do their best to work through the fear, and try not to let that fear win. While much of that fear is irrational after further examination, there's also another word for it: Insecurity.
You will never be perfect, and you will fuck up repeatedly. However, it's better to be scared on the ride than to not get on in the first place.
“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” -Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
Just show up. Some days will be amazing, some miserable. That's just the process.