I get blocked about writing, but I get blocked about other stuff too. Exercise, work tasks, housecleaning. With all the stuff in life that has to get done, often enough I find myself stuck and unable to move to the next step.
I think everyone suffers from this, to a greater or lesser extent, so I’ll share what I’ve learned; the key to unblocking is identification.
For example, I have a goal to ride my bike two nights a week. In the summer, there is little blockage because riding in the warmth and late-day sunshine is fun, not work. But in the winter it is REALLY hard to get motivated. It seems that the blocks are myriad; it’s cold, it’s dark, there are bears lurking near the trails, it’s probably muddy, it’s probably raining, there are cougars lurking near the trails, etc..
Surprisingly, none of these factors are enough to create blockage. It turns out that the biggest de-motivator for me is having to monkey with my light. When I’m time-crunched and tired, having to carry my backpack, having to worry about whether my battery is charged, and having to string up my headlamp all combine into that tiny straw that keeps the camel indoors instead of riding the bike up a big hill. Once I figured this out and found a (cougar- and bear-free) route I can do without my light my weeknight ride consistency went from spotty to stellar.
It happens at work too. Maybe I’m stuck on a project and I have a vague feeling that I’m stuck because it’s too big or overwhelming, or I don’t have confidence in a specific skill that’s needed. But then I examine the situation and usually discover that while it might SEEM that those things are causing blockage, the real problem is one thing, and usually an easy fix at that. Maybe I need to access a tool online and I don’t know whom to ask for access. Maybe I need to collaborate with someone who has been unresponsive in the past, and I assume they’ll be unresponsive this time, so it seems futile to even start. The point is, it’s always one thing, and it’s almost always one thing that can be quickly addressed, and once I address it, things start falling into place and I start making progress.
The key lies in identifying the problem. The identification is the most important part of the process because we can’t overcome what we don’t recognize and if we don’t know what the thing is, anxiety takes over and we spin it up into something much more nefarious than it really is.
This is especially true with writing. There are a million reasons to avoid writing, but I think it really comes down to one block – fear of failure. Once you recognize that and realize that you will only truly fail if you never write a word, the words start to flow.