HOW TO OVERCOME WRITER’S BLOCK THROUGH POETRY

The Secret Technique To Overcome a Crippling Sense of Fear and Self-Doubt And Complete All The Projects You Start

I recently published my fourth book, a poetry collection, “Notes From The Bonfire.” I have three more books in various genres I’m hoping to publish soon. Still, I’d say I’ve had as problematic writer’s block as any other writer in history. My writer’s block isn’t the type where I can’t produce content. That never happened to me. I always could get words down on the page.

No, my writer’s block is more the type where I end up hating everything I’ve written. This trend continues to this day. Once I’m done with a project, I’m really done with it. It can be painful to even look at. What is more, it’s often hard to see many redeeming qualities in it once time has passed. (Interestingly enough, after a great expanse of time has passed, I once more can see some value in it).

This is because, as you grow, you see all the holes in your former work. Every minute flaw becomes apparent. It can be painful to review where you once were, particularly when you are no longer in that specific place.

I believe most artistic individuals feel this way. They always think they could have put out better work. Perhaps this is part of why Paul Valery claimed “a poem is never completed, only abandoned.”

MY WRITER’S BLOCK WAS WORSE THAN MOST

The reason I insist I’ve had some of the worst writer’s block in history is not just because I hate a large portion of my work once complete (which is relatively common). It is also owing to the number of abandoned projects I have in my backlog. I’m talking dozens of novels, hundreds of stories, close to a dozen screenplays, more than ten-thousands poems.

Every writer produces some content they do not want to make public. I get that. But for a long time my case was different. I’d write 3/4 of a book, put it down, then start something else. I’d get really excited about this new project, nearly complete it, then put that down. On and on this pattern would go.

Some good all of that work did me! The worst part about it was my industriousness was a cloak. It hid the underlying problem. I was too focused on the sugar-high of starting a new project to put in the time and effort necessary to polish my work. Moreover, I was afraid of rejection and exposure.

Eventually, of course, I broke the spell. I was no longer a blocked writer…thanks to poetry.

HOW POETRY CAN HELP YOU OVERCOME WRITER’S BLOCK

Poetry is the perfect vehicle to overcome writer’s block. There are a few important reasons for this: it is low-stakes, it can be written rapidly, it is easy to produce. What is more, since few people read poetry and it has limited market value, there is a certain freedom in writing in this form.

There is generally only positives that can come from poetry, too, since it is rare that a poem really pisses off a reader. They may not enjoy it. They may find it trite or inane. But the cancel culture trolls are not feasting on the poet’s work, since, let’s face it, a poem with a title like “Ode To A Sunflower” is not exactly controversial enough to inspire roving mobs carrying hatchets.

WHY PUTTING TOGETHER MY FIRST BOOK WAS SO IMPORTANT

So, tired of abandoning projects, I started writing poems on my phone. This made the writing process even more low-stakes. Nothing to worry about. Just a quick scribbling, a linguistic doodle of sorts.

I also went through my backlog of poems and started editing some of my best works. Soon I grouped the best of these poems thematically.

Before long, I had enough content for a poetry book. Once I had an actual book for sale, I was in a way free of my past self-imposed hindrances. Nothing terrible happened either, fortunately, so I knew I could do it again. In fact, I had momentum.

Ever since that first book, “Butterflies Lost Within The Crooked Moonlight,” I’ve been returning to my backlog and polishing former books I hadn’t been able to complete. First I put out “Feast of Sapphires,” then “Do Not Feed The Clown,” a humor collection, and most recently I put out “Notes From The Bonfire.” I also have three more books slated for publication, a short story collection, a memoir, and a novel.

I felt confident I could complete these works because I managed to do so with that first poetry book. Yes, poetry taught me, above all, how to just go for it.

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Matt Nagin

Matt Nagin is a writer, comedian, actor, and educator. His latest book, “Do Not Feed The Clown,” is available on Amazon. More at mattnagin.com.