If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may be aware that I suffer from chronic writer’s block. But actually being blocked is not my biggest problem. That would be Writing Avoidance, or Writer’s Avoidance. In other words, not sitting down to write the kind of things I am NOT blocked about, such as poetry. Or avoiding doing practice writing sprints, or blog posts. For me, I don’t get blocked with these things.
I don’t know any stats, but I would imagine that writing avoidance is much commoner than true writer’s block, which is where you sit down to your writing project and can’t make the magic happen— either you can’t write a word, or you can only add a few weak and feeble sentences that don’t really advance anything.
Writing Avoidance, even if connected to writer’s block, is a bad habit. Perhaps even an addiction if it persists. So what do people do about addictions? Twelve Step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous are one thing that works for many.
I learned about the Twelve Steps when there was a book sale at the Saint Vincent de Paul thrift shop— you could fill a bag of books for $2. I saw some AA and Overeaters Anonymous books and took them. I decided they might help me with sticking to my low-carb/ketogenic diet, since I really am addicted to carby foods. And working the program does seem to help even though the only group meeting I can attend is one in a Facebook group.
Imagine the 12 Steps as revised for Writing Avoidance, along with my thoughts in italics:
Step One: We admitted we were powerless over writing avoidance—that our lives had become unmanageable. If we had power over our writing avoidance, we would have fixed it by now.
Step Two: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. God can help us when we can’t do things by ourselves.
Step Three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. Put God in charge of the problem instead of relying on our own willpower.
Step Four: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. To find the roots of our not-writing and other avoidant behavior.
Step Five: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. Wrongs? Well, if you promise yourself you will write daily and you don’t, that’s not right. It’s a failure, at least. And if you promise to write something for others— say, a book review— and you don’t, you are letting someone down. And we need to admit this to another human being— as I am starting to do with this blog post.
Step Six: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. We have to stop clinging to the status quo in order to change.
Step Seven: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. Just because we can’t overcome our writing avoidance with the force of our will, doesn’t mean God won’t help if we humbly ask Him.
Step Eight: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. To my mind, this isn’t just about the people we’ve harmed through our writing problem, like the writers whose books we failed to review, or the family members who didn’t have our attention because we were fully occupied with our stalled writing career. It’s all the people we have harmed for whatever reason. Because we can’t expect help from God when we are not dealing with our treatment of other people.
Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. Anyone can SAY they are sorry, and many do who don’t mean it a bit. Making amends means making things right. It’s like if you wronged another writer by swiping his dictionary, you either give it back or buy him a new one. If you have disparaged or mocked another writer online, you might write something positive about that writer to make amends.
Step Ten: Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it. The 12 Steps are a way of life for those who are serious about it. And since the original AA was based on a specifically Christian program for overcoming alcoholism, living the 12 Steps has a lot in common with living the Christian life. And I suppose it has a good deal in common with living the life of a good Jew or a good Buddhist as well.
Step Eleven: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. I think if you want to rely on God, your Higher Power, to help you with your writing avoidance, you have to stay in contact with Him through prayer and meditation.
Step Twelve: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to avoidant writers, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. Wow! I think I’m doing Step Twelve right now! I think that if you see that God has helped you with a problem in your life— whether that problem is writing avoidance, alcoholism or drug addiction— you want to tell others, and to help them experience the same thing.
So: those are the Twelve Steps as adapted for avoidant writers. I think it might help me to go through the Twelve Steps for my writing problems. Sadly, there are no meetings of Avoidant Writers Anonymous where I can walk in and say “My name is Nissa A. and I’m an avoidant writer.” There is not much support out there for avoidant writers. But perhaps this blog post can be the start of something.
Has Writing Avoidance ever been a problem for you? Is it a problem right now? Should you really be writing just at this moment? What do you think about doing a Twelve Step program for avoidant writers?
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Seriously Write: Writer’s Avoidance, Part 1 by Jerusha Agen