In the year of 2015, I experienced a writing drought. Life changes, depression and other factors contributed to a year-long writer’s block that I never thought I would escape. Not knowing what else to do, I threw myself into other endeavors, namely, teaching yoga.
I lurked on writing groups on Facebook and felt like a fraud. I thought my education had been squandered. I wondered if I’d have to stop calling myself a writer and start looking for a new profession. I was mad at everyone and didn’t know what to do about it.
It’s a paradox, but ideas beget ideas.
The best way to find a job is to have a job. If you live with a scarcity mindset, you will experience scarcity. At least when it comes to creativity.
I once worked with a mediocre writer, a white male. For this man, no story was too inane or mundane, and he coasted on his mediocrity simply because no one had ever told him “no.” He’d write something stupid and get accolades for it. I’d curse myself — “I could have written that.” But I didn’t, and he did. He didn’t wait for permission.
It took me a long time to realize that freelancing is not a zero-sum game. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like it, but there are more than enough story ideas and work to go around, and the industry works better as whole if people work to support each other instead of viewing one another as competition.
Even when I was a full-time editor, I turned to other writers for advice and help. How did you break into that publication? How do you come up with story ideas? Those writers were kind to me, even though they weren’t obligated to be, and in return, I want to spread that kindness to others as well.
Here is how I overcame my writer’s block:
I forced myself to write. Low-stakes stuff, at first. Very occasionally I would post on this blog, even though my posts felt stupid. I restarted the Morning Pages. After a few weeks, journaling felt like less of a chore, and instead of fatiguing me creatively, it seemed to give me more energy.
Eventually, a former editor reached out and asked if I’d be interested in writing for her again. From there, I posted on social media and asked for story ideas. Instead of scarcity, I looked for abundance, and I found it.
In the aftermath of Harvey I’ve been inundated with story tips. I’m working with a publication whose mission I believe in, but there is no way I’ll be able to write every story I think deserves coverage.
Last week, in the interest of collaboration, and inspired by this article on idea debt, I sent three additional story ideas to my editor, and she’s already assigned two of them to someone else. I even asked for, and will receive, a finder’s fee.
It feels good to contribute in this way. It’s great for my relationship with my editor. It gives work to someone else, and even though I’m not writing them myself, it shows my sources that when they bring tips to me, stories result.
I’m not much into metaphysics, but I halfway worry that keeping those stories to myself — not allowing them to come to fruition — would create a kind of karmic block, preventing future ideas from finding their way to me. Instead, I choose to live in abundance, sharing freely with the confidence that there are enough ideas to go around.