I am 41 years old, and I watch Spongebob Squarepants. I don’t have time to get into my own needs for therapy, though. This is a post about writing, so I only bring up the subject of Mr. Squarepants because one of my favorite episodes is the one where he has to write an essay for boating school.
In the episode, Spongebob gets straight to work on his essay as soon as he gets home from school. Sitting down at his desk with a pencil and a blank sheet of paper, he hastily bangs out the title (What Not to Do at a Stoplight) and then, “by Spongebob Squarepants.” After this brief flurry of writing, though, Spongebob’s pencil comes to a halt, and he spends the next three hours staring at the paper without writing anything.
I can definitely relate to Spongebob’s problem. I have sat down to write many times only to end up staring at my paper or computer screen. The wheels in my brain spin, but that motion doesn’t lead to any motion of my pen or typing fingers.
There are different reasons why this happens to writers, why our writing times become staring times and the words don’t flow easily, if at all. In my own life, I’ve found that the cause is often that I haven’t been writing on a regular basis. So today I’d like to zero in on that particular cause of “writer’s stare.”
Writers need to write regularly, or else the writing gears in our brains get rusty and our pens are paralyzed. This lack of words flowing leads to discouragement, which often leads to putting off writing, which lets even more rust accumulate in our brains. It’s a vicious cycle.
The solution seems obvious, then: just write regularly. With normal people, this would make sense, but we’re talking about writers here. Writers are exceptionally skilled at not writing. In fact, not writing is one of the things writers do best. When we have time available to write, we are experts at filling that time with anything but writing. Even things like cleaning the kitchen can suddenly seem very attractive if it means we can get out of writing. Just ask Spongebob: that’s what he did to avoid working on his essay (along with many other avoidance activities).
I wish there were an easy answer about how to write on a regular basis. But I have found no way to do it other than just doing it. The only way I can get myself to spend enough time writing is to set a goal of a certain number of hours to spend writing each week and then accept no excuses for not meeting that goal. For me, that works, and the consistent writing keeps my brain’s writing gears lubricated and rust-free.
The result is less time spent just staring at my paper, and more time actually moving my pen across it. Regular writing gives my pen a momentum that it doesn’t have when I only write occasionally.
And momentum in writing is a beautiful ally to have at your side. When you get into a consistent writing routine, it’s almost like your pen never comes to a complete stop. It seems to stay in motion ever so slightly in between writing sessions, so that when you grasp it again, it is warmed up and ready to accelerate down the straight college-ruled avenue ahead.
Thank you for reading! Best of luck to you as you write and as you live. May you not be a staring Spongebob, but instead may your words flow!