Why Bother Trying? (or, Another Bout of Writer’s Block | Writer’s Life

If you’re a writer, chances are you’ve experienced a creative block from time to time. This phenomenon is not uncommon. I talked a little bit about this before, when I was feeling creatively drained and I just couldn’t get myself to write. Back then, I decided I needed a break to refresh myself.

And it worked! I took a month off from blogging and just focused on doing things that refilled my creative well, so to speak. After a few weeks, I felt ready to take on the writing world again.

But there’s more than one kind of writer’s block, and sadly, just taking a break doesn’t always solve the problem. Sometimes, writer’s block gets a little more personal.

As I mentioned in my most recent “Month In Review” post (January 2020), I read a LOT of books in the past month. Seven novels, six manga volumes, one graphic novel, and a partridge in a pear tree. Having all this spare time to read and listen to books was a really nice change of pace for me, especially since I usually only have time for a handful of books between classes and work. And for the most part, I loved everything I read, which doesn’t always happen.

But there’s a “dark side” to reading a lot when you’re a writer: You start to compare yourself.

Comparison traps area easy to fall into. For me, I usually read or watch something that I really love, and it inspires me. Then approximately twenty seconds later, I start to think that no matter how hard I try, nothing I write will ever give me the same feelings that that book/game/movie/show gave me just now. So why bother trying in the first place?

Now obviously, measuring my own success based on what others have accomplished is a very flawed metric for a couple of reasons:

  1. I’m comparing my work in progress with a finished product
  2. I’m comparing myself with people who may have different strengths, weaknesses, and life experiences than I do.
  3. I still am (and always will be) growing as a writer, so I shouldn’t compare myself with people who have already established themselves in the industry.

I know all this. It makes sense. And yet… here I am, still berating myself because I can’t write casts of characters like Leigh Bardugo, magic systems like V.E. Schwab, snappy dialogue like Rick Riordan, or worlds like Marie Lu. Who am I to think that people would want to read my stories when everything else out there is far more interesting and exciting?

In some ways, I feel like this form of writer’s block is even harder to fight. When I’m feeling drained, I know I have to rest. When I don’t know how to start, I just have to buckle down and get on with it. Hypothetically, the same principle would apply here, except when I do “buckle down” and write, it ends with terrible frustration and a resolution to never write again.

So I don’t have any answers. I’m not really sure what the point of this blog post was in the first place – perhaps I thought I would do some soul searching and come to a solution, but that didn’t happen.

What really needs to happen is for me to fall in love with the story I’m telling again, but I don’t know how to do that.

I’ve been writing for myself more lately. After a rather grueling semester of having my work compared to that of twenty other undergrads in a class with a somewhat biased instructor, I needed a break from writing for others. That did help some, because now there’s only one person I have to satisfy: myself.

But I am not an easy person to satisfy. I want to push myself to always be better, always be learning something new, and those are good things. They just usually come at the expense of loving where I’m at now. Yes, I know I can do better, but I can’t get better if I don’t keep writing, and I won’t keep writing if I don’t appreciate the place I’m starting from.

I don’t mean to sound fatalistic or sad or whatever. I just don’t know. Maybe these feelings will pass soon, and I’ll be back to typing up a storm in no time. Or maybe it will take longer.

What I am confident in is that someday, I will get back into writing again – the plot will move forward, the characters will cooperate, and the words will sing. I have hope that it will be better soon, because truth be told, I could never stop writing. A story is like an itch you can’t get rid of. It demands to be written, so it shall be.

I am told, after all, that it’s far easier to fix a bad page than a blank page.

What do you do when you’re faced with writer’s block? Have you faced “imposter syndrome”? How do you resist comparing yourself with your favorite creators? I’d love to chat with you in the comments!

Thanks for taking the time to read this (more personal) edition of Writer’s Life! Until next time!

3 thoughts on “Why Bother Trying? (or, Another Bout of Writer’s Block | Writer’s Life

  1. I recently finished a novel and just started a historical novel about the Mexican war. I’ve also found myself sidetracked from multiple writing projects; I’m hoping that when I finish the next book I’ll be refueled enough to get back to some of those projects, one of which is close to finished (at least the first draft) but I just can’t figure out how to end it. Happens to everyone, I guess.


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