Writing Through The Pain


Tracks Chalbi Desert, Marsabit County, photo courtesy Filberto Strazzari, Creative Commons

Writer’s block.

Have you ever dealt with it?

Some writers talk about writer’s block like it’s a virus you catch, and with all the right ‘home remedies’ (everyone has one) you’ll get well and writer’s block will disappear.

Other writers give writer’s block the name of Resistance, as if naming this shadowy criminal makes it easier to conquer. Some say Resistance is actually a natural obstacle to creating art. If you’re getting Resistance in your writing, you’re doing something right, so blow up the block like you’re freaking John McClane.

Still others say writer’s block doesn’t exist, it’s just another excuse to avoid writing.

I’ve had a series of set backs lately. It’s not your average ‘I had a bad day’ but almost its own novel, when things go bad, and you don’t think anything can get worse, it does. Repeatedly. There’s physical pain and emotional pain. It’s a well-planned attack of Resistance.

And it’s more.

It’s a spiritual attack.

I believe we have all been given gifts to fulfill our destiny, and our gifts give others the strength and wisdom to fulfill their destiny. These gifts flow through the spirit. Our spirits can be attacked to the point that our souls are sapped of creative strength if we are caught unaware.

What do you do when life is painful? Do you find solace in your writing or run from it?

My tendency is retreat. I retreat into myself, rehearse all that is going wrong, wallow in the negative, and then there’s no time or energy for writing. Sometimes I can’t transition from that depressive state and focus on a creative project. So the pen lays stagnant.

I intellectually acknowledge that a step towards writing will help me throw off this state of mind, but the inertia that goes with the feelings keeps me from acting. Waves of guilt, especially as I read blogs and social media statuses of writers completing Herculean acts of productivity, try to wash me away and drag me out to sea.

When this curtain of spiritual Resistance descends on me, I try to fight my way out with prayer. I take a walk. I write in a journal, although I have the beginnings of dozens of journals. I make a list of positive things. I talk to someone. I channel the emotions into a character in my writing if I’m feeling particularly brave.

I wish I could say these are my ‘home remedies’ and they always work, but they don’t.

The truth is that sometimes I’m stuck.

Sometimes I’m not ‘Super-Writer’ leaping tall plots and intricate character arcs in a single bound. I know when this happens, it’s just a season, the feelings will pass, but in the midst of the messiness it’s hard to see.

Do you run to your writing or run away from it when life’s troubles come your way? How do you deal with blocks to writing?

14 thoughts on “Writing Through The Pain

  1. I do write about the difficulty, the starts and stops. I have never called it writer’s block because I don’t like the negative sound of it, but I have experienced it. I have a tab at the top of my page called, “Story Sparklers” which is some tools I’ve used when I’m there. I have several posts on creativity I linked several of them together in this post: http://peterdmallett.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/spinning-your-wheels-pull-in-for-a-creative-pit-stop/ I look forward to reading more of yours as I have the time. 🙂


    • Thanks for following, Peter, and sharing resources to help with this issue. I agree that writer’s block is not the best term. It’s has a finality about it. Maybe something like writing hesitations would be less intimidating and negative. 🙂 Thanks for contributing to the discussion.


  2. I began writing my first novel five years ago this month after the death of my wife in November, 2008. I’d owned a newspaper, magazine and a TV station in the 1990’s and written a lot, but never a novel. The story for the novel popped up in my head when Becky was first diagnosed with kidney failure in the fall of 2005, but I hadn’t written anything down, just revisited it in my head now and then.

    In addition to losing her, when the economy crashed in the fall of ’08, my job pretty much disappeared too. What savings we’d managed to hold onto was tied to the market and lost more than half its value by the time I needed to tap into it in 2009.

    Today, my life is good and I credit writing for bringing me through those very dark times.


    • Wow, Joe that’s an incredible story of leaning into your passion to survive a rough journey. I’m glad you gained strength from your writing and have been able to enjoy the fruits of your labor. 🙂


  3. For me personally, Writers Block and Writing Resistance means I’m on the wrong path in a story. I have learned through many battles that I am doing one of the following (in no particular order): barking up the wrong tree, forcing something out that hasn’t had enough time to percolate, approaching a piece from the wrong angle, am getting too wrapped up in what everyone else is doing, have gotten too busy listening to what everyone else *tells* me I should be doing in my writing, not spending enough time listening to my guts.

    Of course, I have to relearn this lesson each time I encounter Writer’s Block, but I think, with enough repeated battles, I may shorten the time for it to sink through my thick skull. *fingers crossed*

    The act of writing stories shapes us just as we are shaping the stories, and occasionally, avoidance is part of the process. And sometimes, we just need to know it’s ok to take a break and work on a different hobby for a while, like cross-stitching snarky comments, lol.

    I hope things get better soon. And if not, there’s always alcohol…..


    • Part of my blocking is what you suggest: the writing doesn’t ‘feel’ right, it’s not heading in the right direction, which tends to freak me out a little, and the other part is simply avoidance because I am overwrought dealing with life. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think a lot of writers do. But I like your advice on giving yourself permission to take the pressure off at times. A relaxing hobby would definitely help with ‘structured breaks’. And if not, there’s always alcohol… 😉 LOL


  4. It’s no secret that Mathair and I had a heavy 2008. We wrote about it on our blog and have dedicated our first novel to my grandfather, her father. It was during that time that we started Inion N. Mathair and wrote through the pain. Mathair has always been very open with her emotions, but I have a tendency to bottle and push those feelings down. Writing has helped me immensely with that, though there are times that I simply cannot form those feelings into words or a coherent story. It’s in those times that I take some time to myself and meditate. That’ll usually clear up the writer’s block. Of course, I have been known to pull out the Irish Whiskey and that too has the same effect. LOL. Great post, Kristin. Sharing now.


    • “…..there are times that I simply cannot form those feelings into words or a coherent story. It’s in those times that I take some time to myself and meditate.”

      Going inward can be the best way to get things out in the light of day. I really enjoy prayer and meditation for those benefits. It helps me move towards balance, such as my idea of balance is.

      The two of you are definitely an inspiration, and I love your ‘team’ and how you’ve written through your pain to writing success. Keep up the good work! 🙂


  5. Both. Sometimes I write through it and sometimes I run from it. I encountered a personal situation in 2013 I couldn’t write about without causing harm to another if the words were discovered, so I found myself feeling particularly blocked at times because I was overwhelmed with my own response and by my fear of saying something I shouldn’t. This even stymied my private writing that no one else would see for fear it would be discovered. I eventually found creative ways to write through the situation, but it wasn’t easy.
    I think often we judge ourselves far too harshly when we feel “blocked” and set up a vortex that spirals us deeper into our block rather than freeing us. Often, at least for me, the best thing I can do is release the judgment, admit to myself the words aren’t coming and go do something else… Then just let myself write even if I have to tear the pages to shreds when I’m finished…
    Hope you’re feeling un-stuck or at least less stuck now, Kristin!!


    • I am feeling better now, T.L. Thanks. I think taking the chance to share about this honestly in a public forum has helped a lot. I’m still dealing with the same life situations, but just speaking the thoughts helped me gain a sense of control. I’ll be better prepared the next time the curtain descends. 🙂 Thanks for your support.


  6. I’ve both poured myself into my writing, and had to step away from it, depending on the distress. When I’m angry, it’s easier for me to write. If I’m broken, it’s sometimes impossible for me to write. Unfortunately, I’ve been broken a lot more than angry the past few months.

    Writing causes me to delve too deeply into my emotional state, and while that helps me dissolve anger, when I’m depressed or hurting, it only makes me feel more so. That’s when it’s time for me to step aside and focus my attention outside of myself – when I need to read my Bible, or read another book, or just go outside and take a walk.

    It just takes time after that. *hugs*


  7. Like the expression “writing hesitation,” Kristen – because it is, indeed, a blip on the road. You seem inspired and motivated by photography – is it possible when your writing is down you are using other creative forces? Having had a challenging 2013, I can appreciate the (unasked for!) growth that results from these periods. Praying His comfort for you.


    • I never thought about it that way, Shel, but I think you’re right about the photography. It’s another outlet for expression that I can put my energy into when writing is not on the ‘upswing’. Thanks for the encouraging words. Here’s to a great 2014 for all of us! 🙂


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