Talk It Out: How I Overcame Writer’s Block
by Najya Williams
Clear and sparkling with the brightness of countless stars, I found myself staring from my window in admiration of the night. The sidewalk is quiet, no longer carrying the busyness of the day’s visitors. Shades and curtains of nearby buildings are closed, as the community around me succumbs to their slumber. The trees sway with the gentle breeze of the cool autumn night. The universe seems to be aligned just enough to coax a poem or two from my depths, so as I pack up work and assignments from the start of the day, I recline on my sofa and close my eyes, waiting for the words to bubble up from within.
Flat radio silence. No characters, no words, no rhymes. No poems. It was startling to say the least because as much as I’d seen and experienced, I knew that there was a story waiting to be told from inside of me. Yet, it wouldn’t even grace me with the honor of its presence. Dejected, I put my writing notebook and cell phone away, deciding to choose sleep and try again the next night. However, I didn’t realize in the moment that this wasn’t a one off occasion.
As a student and writer, I have to be creative about carving out time to write and work on my other passion projects. In my experience, I’ve discovered that the words tend to flow without much thought in the dark of the night. The house is quiet, my room is dimmed and the world seems to spin a touch slower. I’m no longer thinking about the to-do list I’ve yet to complete or the loads of laundry staring back at me. The only voices I typically can hear are that of my characters, gently tugging my mind and fingers to finally tell their stories, to write their poems. Imagine my surprise on that fateful night, when the voices were quiet and the itch to write seemed to have escaped my body.
Every writer has experienced writer’s block, and if they haven’t, it will certainly arise sooner rather than later. It creeps up your spine until it rests comfortably like a weight on your hands and a fog on your mind. Writer’s block can lock the most talented writer in a tailspin of self-doubt, frustration and anxiety, so I shouldn’t have been so surprised to know that I wasn’t immune to the experience, either. Yet, as with many other professionals in this industry, deadlines and deliverables do not wait for your mind to de-fog and your heart to start thumping with ideas again. I knew that I had to step back and go back to the basics in order to dig into the narrative I wanted to share.
In all my years of writing, I never thought to speak my projects out loud using my voice. Whenever anyone asked me about my current works in progress, I always enthusiastically answered in a chipper tone, rambling until they were engrossed in details I’m most certain they didn’t need to hear. Even still, I’d leave those interactions and find myself in front of my computer, typing furiously in an angsty attempt to recount my earlier conversation. After Day 15 of my writing drought, I began to talk out loud and share what exactly I wanted to write, even if I couldn’t find the words for the articles themselves. After a while, I was able to recall another writer’s advice to me: “Use Dragon dictation! It saved my life!” Suddenly, a lightbulb went off in my head. Instead of laboring over my laptop with words that didn’t feel authentic to my message, why not talk it out instead?
It has been roughly six months since I began using the Dragon dictation app to write when writer’s block decides to make its appearance. I treat my phone as a friend who’s curious about my work, and in those “interactions,” I am able to retrieve some of my most amazing writing gems! I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that dictation has made my writing much more efficient, as my hands don’t have to work to keep up with my mind or my mouth. Instead, the microphone is able to respond to the speed of my voice with startling accuracy and precision so that a 45-minute writing block is only a 15-minute dictation that can be edited, exported and sent off in less than 10 additional minutes. I found that in addition to removing the pressure of “getting it right” and writing to perfection in my first draft, dictation significantly reduced the stress I didn’t even know I carried about spending time writing subpar pieces.
It is my hope that my experiences and new discovery not only help you in overcoming writer’s block, but provides abundant reassurance to you in your ability to write and produce great work. There’s no “perfect” way to write, and ultimately, it’s up to you to find the best way to share the words this world desperately needs to hear from you.