Quotes to Break the Block

Writer’s block is a real thing and, in my case at least, is almost always caused by a fear that whatever I inevitably write will just be bad. No ideas are good enough! The longer I live this way, the further away “good enough” is, so I try to bite the bullet of self-expectations and just write. Of course, that’s all easier said than done, so I’ve compiled a few of my favorite quotes that inspire me to shatter my writers block. Sometimes our writing just needs the smallest push by the words of a literary giant.

“You can’t think yourself out of a writing block; you have to write yourself out of a thinking block.”
John Rogers

My initial response to this quote was to scrunch up my nose and think, “It’s just not that easy.” But, honestly, it kind of is. I find that when I sit down and scribble out five pages of what I think is garbage, I can find at least one image or excerpt that I don’t hate. That’s all it takes to crack the block. Instead of maintaining the certainty that whatever you write will be “bad” and therefore you just shouldn’t write at all, open your journal or blank word document and dump it all out. The good, the bad, the ugly.

“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”
Shannon Hale

This quote always reminds me of Anne Lamott’s “Shitty First Drafts” in Bird by Bird. No one writes a ready-to-publish first draft. Every memoir and novel has gone through revisions, from the beginning of the process to the end. It’s like throwing a chunk of clay onto a pottery wheel. It may start out as a giant lump of muck, but there won’t ever be any gorgeous pottery if there’s no glob of clay to begin with. Cheesy, I know, but the quote is true. Write now, make sense of it later.

“If you imagine the world listening, you’ll never write a line.”
Erica Jong

Just last week, I panicked in the middle of my expository writing class when I realized the professor wanted us to workshop our first drafts of an essay. We’d done this before, with different essays, but somehow, in the moment of writing this particular essay, I had forgotten that my peers would read it. It wasn’t until I had gotten over myself that I realized I write my best work unhindered.

I feel that we, writers, are doing ourselves a disservice when we write to other people. My story, your story, even your Uber driver’s story; they all deserve to be written. We cannot let the fear of the public opinion hold back our truth.

“If our fortress has been invaded by criticism or self-doubt, comparison or apology, self-sabotage or judgement, we must seek shelter and create safety. We must surrender our weapons so we can pick up the tools necessary to create and to begin.”
Valley Haggard, Surrender Your Weapons

In my most constructive writing class, there was a strict rule of “no disclaimers” on your writing. We were not allowed to make excuses for ourselves, to attempt to apologize for what was on the paper. It trained me to embrace what I wrote and to understand that my writing is enough.

I believe we are beings of inner excuses. It is easy to fall into a habit of delaying and putting yourself down in the exact ways Valley describes, through judgement and self-sabotage. When we let ourselves fall from those toxic habits, we can find what it takes to create within ourselves. We can be heard when we get out of our own way.

Becca Lovelace is one of the Life in 10 Minutes spring interns. She is a student at Virginia Commonwealth University and a graduate of the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School where she studied literary arts.

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