From FRAB to Fab (part 1): the oft-forgotten culprit behind writer’s block

I’m back! Happy 2013, everyone! I had an excellent (and incredibly productive) holiday season, and I am just so excited to tackle this new year.

As I promised back in December, I’ve been working on a series of blog posts that specifically address the “fear factor” in writer’s block.

I feel pretty awful for not only never having addressed this before–the idea that fear is a major source of writer’s block–but also for never having acknowledged that it’s a possibility at all. But I’m here to tell you now: fear can be a major contributor to a writing standstill.

Now, I should preface this series by saying that I “believe” in writer’s block. I’ve heard many authors argue there’s no such thing, but I disagree. Writer’s block isn’t Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny–it’s an actual affliction with actual causes (that I’ve discussed in depth before here and here and likely in many other posts of which I’ve now forgotten).

I get writer’s block and I’m not just making it up for attention or as an excuse for low productivity. So while other authors might not have a problem with writer’s block, I want you all to know that it’s definitely a thing for me and many other writers.

Ahem. Moving on.

Fear doesn’t only cause writers to stop producing–it can impede any creative flow, and I think it often does. Sure, laziness can get in the way. Or a simple lack of what precisely needs to happen next to get the ball rolling, but more often than not, I think the culprit behind any creative block is that nasty, no-good, ever-lurking fear.

Fear is one of the most common causes of an artistic block of any kind.

But since we often forget about fear, dismiss it as simple laziness, or simply don’t speak of it (since no one wants to admit to such a weakness), we never deal with the fears. As such, so they continue to pop up and keep our words/art/creativity from flowing.

Want to know if YOUR creativity is suffering from a Fear-Related Artistic Blockor a FRAB for short?

Well, let’s start with a few simple questions:

    • When you sit down to create, do you find it hard to slip into creative flow? Or, in other words, do you need a while “to get in the zone” or find that you’re constantly looking away from your project to check email/glance at your phone/stare at the wall?
    • Do you wish that you could be more productive with regards to your creativity? I.e. is your daily/weekly/yearly output at the level you’d like it to be? Or do you suspect you could produce more?
    • Do you look forward to your creative time each day/week/year/whatever?
    • Are you happy with your creative life?

If you answered “no” to ANY of those questions, then I’d say you’re possibly dealing with a nasty ol’ FRAB.

But let’s dig deeper–just to be sure. I want you to go through the lists below and make note of which–if any–of these symptoms apply to you.

Symptoms that are easy to spot:

    • You don’t feel like writing, even though you’re pretty sure you love your story.
    • You sit at the computer, thinking you’re really going to write this time…but then you don’t. You check your email 4,321 times and refresh Pinterest 3,690 times.
    • You spend more time thinking and talking about your book than actually writing it. This is fine up to point, but there is a point after which you’ve passed the “acceptable talk time”. For me personally, that’s anything over a month.
    • You know you’re not just lazy because you’re BICHOK-ing every day…but every. Single. Word. You. Write. Feels. Like. Crap. And it’s just agony getting any words out.
    • You know you’re not just writing the wrong thing because you feel this story is right and you’ve daydreamed for hours and the appeal of cookies just isn’t hacking it.

Symptoms that are NOT so easy to spot:

    • Whenever you sit down to write–or even think about sitting down to write–your chest kinda caves in and your stomach knots up. You might power on through that feeling…or you might go do something else instead.
    • There are SO many more important things that need doing RIGHT NOW. The laundry, for one. And the dishes. And alphabetizing all of your bookshelves. And of course you mustn’t forget about cleaning out all the vents–they’re just filthy, they are!
    • You think you might need a new computer. Or a new program. Or a new writing space. Or just a new set of pens. Whatever it is that you need, it’s different from what you currently use to write with–and you simply can’t write again until you have a new program/office/playlist/pack of highlighters.
    • If you have deadlines, you wait until the last minute to start that new book that’s due in–yikes–three weeks. Or, you frequently miss deadlines that you could have met if you’d worked a little bit everyday.*

If you checked off ≥2 symptoms from the first list and then ≥1 symptom from the second list, then you’ve got a FRAB on your hands.

But that’s okay. Do not panic.

For one, you’re not alone (I have quite a few FRABs that get in the way of my creativity).

For two, I’m going to show you how I deal with the FRABs and how you can work through them too.

But I’ll give you hint to entice you back next Monday: the first step to stopping a FRAB and reopening your creative flow is to stop trying to fight the damned thing. Instead, we’re going to figure out what our FRABs are and then we’re going to befriend them. Trust me, I know how hippie-woowoo I sound, but it works. It really does.

Of Fear and FRABs: Homework Assignment 1

1. Do you wish you were more productive or could maintain a longer creative flow? Do you need to work through some current artistic block that has you pulling your hair? If so, write down what it is that you want changed in your creative life. Be clear. For example, these are my current mission statements:

I want to write more books each year.

I want to easily reach the creative free-fall I used to experience when I first started writing.

I want to feel good about the art I create–not like it’s all crap that the world will laugh at.

2. Those sentences are my FRAB mission statements, and whatever you write down will be your FRAB mission statement(s). Keep them somewhere you can look at often because those words are the fuel that will power you through the more uncomfortable and frustrating parts of this series. When the going get’s tough, the tough look at their mission statement and remember why they heck they set out to do this in the first place.

3. According to the symptoms checklists, are you suffering from a FRAB? Or maybe two? If so, join the club and let’s get a dialogue going in the comments! Or, feel free to email me personally: susan @ susandennard . com


Now head on over to Part 2 in the FRAB series!

*Note: sometimes authors get deadlines that really are unmeetable, even if you work everyday and start way ahead of time. But if you look back on your time-usage and you sort of know deep down that you could’ve met a deadline with better time management, then you’re possibly  facing a fear-related writer’s block.