On Overcoming Writing Barriers

By Samantha Alsina on April 26, 2017

An empty page is an overwhelming sight. The task of writing is never easy and it takes time for anyone to perfect their craft and to hone in on what you want to communicate. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself loaded with a desire to write but when faced with a blank page, your mind goes blank.

As someone who began writing in my youth, I have often found myself more so in a creative slump now than when I was a teenager but if you find yourself in a creative rut, do not despair.

Any emerging writer will feel some type of anxiety. However, nothing can be more toxic to an emerging writer than our obsession with perfection. Perfection is a faulty measure to our own work and when considered too early on in our writing process, it can be more of a hindrance than a motivator.

Notably expressing the highs and lows of writing is Jennifer Egan’s advice to young writers, “You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly. You can’t write regularly and well. One should accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well.”

hot air balloon in mid-air

image via pixabay

Bad writing is an exercise of will and patience. When we free-write, it feels forced and wrong but free-writing is a stop and start process. It is like turning on a engine to an old car. It will sputter, take a couple of minutes and then boom, the engine will start and the words will flow.

The words will come in whatever form they may and that is apart of the magic of free-writing: Leave your pen on the page and don’t stop writing even if that means you’re writing the same sentence over and over again. When you run out of things to say, use the first sentence you wrote and take it into a new direction.

Of course, many other writers have their own views on what makes a good writing process. Joyce Carol Oates once said, “I would never write first — I don’t think that’s good at all. As soon as you write in language, it becomes frozen. It’s better to think first — to think for a long time — and then write when you’re ready to write. But writing prematurely is a mistake.”

There is some truth to Oates’ words. Writing does begin before the pen is on the page. When you’re walking to class or day dreaming out a window, think of your work and the world around you. Ask the questions that need to be asked. Answer the questions you hear too often.

Finding the balance between thinking and doing is part of the magic of writing that you want to polish for yourself but there is also the matter of facing your own self-doubt.

person looking out to the sunset atop a mountain

image via pixabay

Your imaginary critics will always be on your shoulders pestering you as you write and there is the disturbing question of whether you’re “good enough” to write. There is no easy way to deal with this experience but failure is the writer’s way.

Our attachment to our work on what it must be stifles our ability to see our work for what it is or where it needs to go. The epiphany and inspiration we seek will only come to us if we let our minds wander, unconsciously letting ourselves meditate on other things and putting our work on the back burners of our mind.

If you develop your writing as an exercise that must lift weights everyday, how is there doubt that you will not gain artistic muscle along the way? With these things in mind, go on and write and don’t ever stop.

By Samantha Alsina

Uloop Writer
I'm a junior at UC Santa Cruz pursuing a degree in Literature with a concentration in Creative Writing. I enjoy writing on intersecting issues including politics, entertainment, and art. When I am not writing articles and critical essays, I dally in poetry and short fiction. I hope to work in publishing one day.

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