Finding Your Breath

Last night, I was reminded of a lesson I’d already learned, but had forgotten.  A newer client and I had been struggling to establish a footing for our relationship. Each time we met, I felt as if we were standing on a major fault line, the earth rumbling beneath us.

This client has always wanted to be a writer, but for some time has found it nearly impossible to write.  Or I should say, impossible to write for more than a limited amount of time.  At certain moments, an image would flicker in his mind’s eye, or a character he’d never met would introduce itself to him, or a feeling would wash over him and demand expression. At those times, he would sit down to write, and write happily for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.  Then, inevitably, he’d reach a moment when he’d think, “I have no idea what comes next.”

That thought would unleash a tidal wave of self-criticism, everything from, “You can’t write; you can never finish anything,” to “You don’t even know how to write a decent sentence!  Just give up.”

At that, he would close his notebook and put away his pen, until several days or as much as a week later, when the next alluring image or character would seduce him, and he’d find himself soaring with hope, certain that this time, things would be different.

They never were.

He and I had discussed a number of strategies to help him make some headway with his writing.  I’d suggested writing for a delimited amount of time–15 minutes–several times a week, to try to help him gain some momentum with his writing. I narrowed the time to 15 minutes, because for many writers, minimizing the writing window lowers the stakes.  Oh, sure, I can write for 15 minutes.  No big deal!  Then gradually, the 15 minutes can expand into a half hour, the half hour to an hour, etc.

But telling this writer that he could write for only fifteen minutes, or even half an hour, felt like a defeat even before he was out of the starting gate. Instead, he mentioned a book of writing exercises he’d found helpful in the past, and we worked out a plan for him to try his hand at four exercises a week.  Writing exercises help lower the stakes for writers struggling with inhibitions, so I was hopeful that this plan might work for him.  But there was a novel he’d been wanting to write for the past six months, and within a week, the exercises felt like obstacles to writing his novel.

After several more strategies had offered no relief, I began to worry. Then one evening, the client sent me several examples of his dead-end writing.  Though I’d ask to see what he was up to before, allowing me to read anything he’d written was too frightening.  Which I understood.  After all, I hadn’t been able to help him yet.  Why should he trust me with what he’d written?

I read the four or five “dead-end” pieces with increasing excitement. No wonder each time he wrote one of these “inspirations,” he arrived at the “I don’t know what to write next” moments.  There wasn’t anything else to write.  Each short piece was a fusion of flash fiction and prose poetry, a small jewel that was already complete.  “You can stop beating yourself up immediately,” I told him. “These pieces are already finished.  There’s nothing more to write.”

As soon as I’d read these graceful, elegant pieces, I remembered something I’d understand some time ago:  some writers struggle because they haven’t yet recognized what I call “their particular breath.”  While my client discounted what he had been able to write because they weren’t short stories, his current gift was to write exquisite and poetic short pieces. More important, I learned that you never know when you will make a breakthrough, in a relationship or story.  If you remain engaged and in good faith, it will happen. I can almost promise!

Writing As A Tiny Habit

Somebody recently told me about a website called “Tiny Habits.” Since one of the main tenets of my approach to working through writing inhibition is to think small, the name appealed immediately to me.  By thinking not only large but humongously, so many of the writers I work with create obstacles in between them and their writing.

A writer who is writing the very first chapter of her memoir begins to obsess about how her family will react to her book’s publication. “My aunt will never speak to me again,” she might say.  Or, “My mother will be so hurt.”  Another writer begins looking for an agent before even starting his first chapter.  “I just want to be sure there’s someone out there to represent me.”  Yet another worries about just who will publish her book.  “I don’t want my book to come out from some unknown publisher.  That will feel like a defeat,” she tells me.

Our writing goes most smoothly when our attention is focussed no further than the page we are writing. Allowing our eyes to look off into the distance to publishers and agents and family, is worse than a distraction. When we look so far afield, we create the space for all of our critics to enter our writing process, and we all know just how damaging these critics can be.

While we’re trying to foster a more intimate and obstacle-free relationship with writing, it would be very helpful to think of our writing practice, at least initially, as a tiny habit.  This, for several reasons:

First and foremost, the word tiny immediately lowers the stakes and helps us to think small.

Second, the word habit might just keep us from complicating the act of sitting down to write with all our fears and anxieties.

Third, a successful writing practice is actually a habit, an acquired act or behavior that takes place nearly automatically. It’s when we think too much about the actual act of writing that we get ourself in trouble.

Fourth, a habit, once established, doesn’t rely on willpower or inspiration or feeling motivated, all of which quickly lose out to anxiety in all the writers I work with.

Try, just for a week or two, to consider your writing practice a tiny habit, and let me know if this new perspective helps keep your critics at bay.




Stop-and-G0 Writing

So many writers I’ve worked with write as if they are driving in stop-and-go traffic.  They sit down to write, gather some momentum, then something inevitably presents itself to make them slow way way down, or more likely stop.  This something can be anything from helping a dear friend or relative out; taking an extra assignment at work, because after all, they could use the money; deciding they absolutely have to take advantage of the reduced airfares and visit relatives across the country, or take that trip to Italy they’ve been thinking about absolutely forever. I’ve had clients decide to trim their nanny’s hours down just when they’ve begun to write again, while others feel impelled to volunteer at the local school.  Still other writers suddenly realize that their basement is an absolute disaster and a thorough cleaning cannot be put off one day longer, or if they don’t redesign their perennial bed, it will be an eyesore for the entire summer.

Of course, I’m exaggerating here.  But not all that much.  And if I have given myself the license to exaggerate, it’s because for many years, I didn’t allow myself to point out this pattern to the writers I work with.  Didn’t allow myself to say, “Look, you’ve just begun writing again, don’t you think that is more important?” Or, “You’ve only recently started making headway with the novel.  Please don’t jeopardize your momentum with this new project.”  Or, “If you ask me, nothing is as important as safeguarding your writing time.”

“Oh, you’re being ridiculous here,” you might say to me.  “Maybe these projects or assignments are really important to the person and once they get them out of the way, their writing will flourish.”

That’s what they all tell me, “Just this one extra assignment, this one volunteer project, this one trip to England, and I’ll be in even better shape to do my writing.”

And I used to believe my clients.  Until I had the same experience again and again.  It was never just this one assignment or this one trip, it was this one assignment or this one trip over and over again.

I began to understand that this one assignment and this one trip were unconscious strategies for wiggling free of their writing without feeling guilty.  And unless I called them on it, albeit gently, they were never going to finish their novel or memoir, never going to be able to sit down and write the short story they had been trying to get on paper for the past few years, or those thank you notes from their wedding that took place ten months earlier.

Finding a way to the page involves pushing aside some of our already busy life to make room for our writing.  Not heaping more on.  But if we are really frightened about actually doing the writing, finishing the novel or memoir or story, we convince ourself–and our writing coach–that what we have allowed to get in the way of our writing is essential to our well-being.



Sparing the Writer

I often ask the writers I’m working with to check in with me after they write.  Nothing elaborate, just a note to let me know how the writing felt that day.  If you are struggling, writing can be a lonely space, so knowing I’m on the other side of the computer screen can be reassuring: Someone out there cares and wants to know how you’re doing. Of course, the reassurance works both ways.  If I know a writer is struggling, I tend to wonder and worry.  Even if they write that the writing went poorly, I want to know.  And I can often offer a suggestion or two to alleviate the struggle the following days.

I didn’t hear from one of my clients this entire week.  Although I have explained that not hearing is hard on me, she believes that by not writing to me about her travails, she is sparing me.  Yesterday I shot her a note asking how she was, and she replied that the writing hadn’t gone well all week, but that she had cleared the weekend to devote to making up for wasted time.

“Please, don’t do that,” I wrote back immediately.  “Instead, set aside only a half-hour writing time tomorrow.  And instead of struggling to form logical, coherent thoughts, simply free write.  Then let me know how you feel.”

I’m pretty sure I understand what went wrong for this writer.  For several weeks, she had been struggling less with her writing.  She felt she was gaining momentum.  Then one day the writing didn’t go so well.  She felt pen-tied, unable to find the words to communicate her thoughts.  Then, unable to find the words, she began to question the thoughts themselves.  Were they even valid?  Maybe she was just wasting her time. Or maybe she wasn’t smart enough to write about the topic she had chosen.

Questioning herself in this way, she became angry and decided that she’d sit in front of her computer for twice as long the next day.  She had to make up for the time she’d wasted.  She’d better shape up!  Be more disciplined!

The next day was even worse.  Etc.

Bad writing days are an inevitable part of the writing process, and are by no means a reflection on us as writers or on what we are writing about.  In the same way that we don’t feel our best every day of the week, our sense of well being fluctuating with our sleep, the weather, our loved ones and their moods, as well as chance, we don’t always write our best.  In fact, some days, we write our worst.  But if we understand that this is not because we have done anything wrong, and if we show up for our writing the following day, for the amount of time we have promised to commit to our writing, chances are pretty high that our experience will be more positive.  It might not be perfect; writing rarely is.  But the experience won’t be as dark as the day before.  And if you keep on showing up, one day will be a good writing day.

Not turning ourselves over our own knees when the writing goes poorly is one of the best ways we writers have to gather momentum, not only for the essay, the feature, the novel, the article we are currently working on, but for all the other writing we hope to do in the future.

Nurturing a Life-Long Writing Practice

I often speak to writers, individually and in classes and workshops, about establishing and sustaining a life-long writing practice.  Most are hungry for what I have to say, and remain rapt for my entire spiel.  But last week, speaking to the participants of this year’s Fiction Writing Intensive at UC Berkeley Extension, for the first time, I encountered skepticism.

In a nutshell, I told the participants seated in a U-shape around me, that in all my experience with writers, both in MFA programs and among my private clients, I have culled a collection of ingredients I deem essential for nourishing our relationship with writing.

First, I told the group, you need to think of yourself as a writer.  And it helps, I added, to tell others that you are a writer as well. “Keeping it a secret is counter-productive.”

I say this because over the years, I’ve encountered countless writers who believe they have not yet earned that title–they haven’t published, or published enough, or received good enough reviews.  It’s my belief, born out of experience, that if you don’t own that you are a writer, eventually you’ll stop writing.

Next, I mentioned the importance of feeling that you deserve the time to write, whether for fifteen minutes or three hours several times a week. I’ve heard so many writers say that they feel guilty taking the time to write, that it feels selfish when: their family needs them, there is so much to do around the house, their parents are old and failing and could use help, they are not giving anything to the world, which is in a woeful state.

By the time I had finished discussing this second ingredient, I noticed that the keen interest with which the group had greeted me, had grown soft.  Actually, I had perceived some softening immediately, when I announced I was not going to offer the group a list of rules for sustaining a writing practice.  “There are no rules,” I maintained.  “Each of you has to establish and nurture your personal relationship to your writing.”

Several hands went up.  “I don’t have any trouble finding time to write,” one participant declared. “I want to write my novel, and I’ve been writing it for the past eight months.”

“I tell many people I’m a writer,” another participant ventured.  “Whom I tell just depends on the questions I think they’ll ask; and is not about my feeling undeserving.”

At this point in my talk, I’m usually looking out at a sea of nodding heads and hopeful looks.  “You mean I’m not the only one,” someone might say.  Or, “I’d love to learn how to feel comfortable about taking the time to write.” So, I have to admit, I was flummoxed by the lack of enthusiasm in this group for what I had to say. But instead of responding in the way I now wish I had, I carried on, certain that I’d hook the group with the next ingredient I mentioned.

It wasn’t for another half hour or so, after another participant said she didn’t understand how anyone had trouble doing something they wanted to do and loved doing, that I got smart.  “Laurie,” I asked the instructor,  “you graduated from the MFA in Writing Program at University of San Francisco.  How many of your classmates do you think are still writing?”

“Maybe 10%,” she smiled.

A collective gasp rose from the classroom.

“That’s impossible,” someone protested.

“No,” Laurie shook her head, “it’s only about 10%.”

I waited a few beats, then continued my talk.

Hoarding Self-Criticism

So many of the writers I work with are hoarders.  Not of old newspapers and magazines, rubber bands or bag ties, but of self criticism.

They think nothing of telling themselves that they’re wasting their time writing, that nobody will like what they write; nobody will publish it; that they’ve been working on this particular project so long, even if it does get published, it won’t count; that they’re lazy; they’re not disciplined enough; they’re going to look foolish for writing this particular piece or story or novel; they’re not good enough; everybody writes more fluidly than they do–and a lot worse.

Even when I offer these writers other explanations for their difficulties, try to reason with them, or help them see just what stake they have in being hypercritical, they persist in their on-going self-critique.  I recently asked a writer I’m working with if she could see the double bind she had been in all her life, wanting the attention of a family that was usually looking elsewhere, then being mocked on those rare occasions she managed to attract their attention.

“I don’t agree,” she responded.  “Maybe if I had had something important to say, they wouldn’t have made fun of me when I did speak.”

Another writer energetically tried to convince me that it was always best to think the worst. If he prepared himself for disaster and disappointment, he wouldn’t be taken by surprise.

“Do you think it’s possible that bracing for the worst prevents you from engaging fully with your writing?”

“What do you mean?” he asked.  “I spend a lot of time trying to write.”

“I mean that constantly bolstering yourself for disappointment keeps you from putting your full energy and your best effort into your writing.”

“Oh,” he replied, “that has never occurred to me.  I’ll need to think about that.”

I’m certainly no stranger to girding myself for the worst case scenario.  This was my MO until not that long ago.  And I can’t deny that at times I was correct: bad things did indeed happen.

But I also realize now that all the bad things I anticipated did not occur.  Not by a long shot.  More disheartening is the time I spent worrying and feeling anxious instead of enjoying and appreciating what was taking place in the present.

In the end, it’s actually more economical–because it’s more productive–for you to find ways to offer yourself more positive messages about your writing.  Not falsely positive, of course not. Realistic positive messages.  Notice, for example, unexpected words or images that find their way onto the page, and compliment yourself. Of, if your goal is to write every day for at least a half hour and you succeed several days running, pat yourself on the back. If as you’re writing, an idea or a scene offers itself up to you, marvel at the mystery of writing and the unconscious.

At first, this shift from the hoarding of self-criticism to gathering more positive responses to your writing takes a bit of effort.  Praising yourself doesn’t come naturally; criticizing does.  But after some time–different for each of us–you’ll discover, if you’re paying attention, that your writing house is more spacious than before.  And if you look out the window, you’ll see clear blue sky.

Creating a Writing Window

A writer I’m working with, who has struggled with writing inhibition, decided he wanted to write every day.  So he made a commitment, set up his schedule around writing each morning, went to bed, got up the next day, and began walking toward his writing room.  Along the way, he decided he’d dispense with one load of wash–it’s always a good thing to have clean clothes, isn’t it?  Once the wash was in, he remembered an important bill he hadn’t paid.  And once  had his checkbook out, he thought, Why not pay the rest of the bills?  Since paying bills is not much fun for anyone, and since this stack of bills was high, he noticed that he had begun to sweat as he wrote check after check.  So, once he had stuck the last stamp on the last envelope, he decided he had to take a shower before sitting down to write.  He felt too messy to write freely.  As he stepped out of the shower, he heard the phone ringing and without thinking, answered it.

I’m exaggerating, of course.  But not all that much.  What happened to this writer is in no way unusual. Any of us who have anxiety around writing, whether we’re aware of it or not, are clever at postponing.  For me it was scrubbing my kitchen lick-the-floor clean, which, of course, involved much more than surfaces.  Emptying drawers, wiping down refrigerator shelves, reorganizing cupboards, and scouring around burners became essential factors as well.

One day, I too, decided that I was going to set aside a particular time to write: I promised to be at my desk by 9:00 each weekday morning.  And I succeeded, at least at sitting down.  But no matter how earnestly I tried to focus, the words wouldn’t come.  Instead, my thoughts kept returning to my messy kitchen, the dried food in the sink, the drips of tea on the counter.

Finally I decided that my plan wasn’t working.  I simply couldn’t concentrate.  I decided to allow myself to return to my kitchen and pick one area to spiff up. I knew if I didn’t set a strict limit, my writing would, once again, be an unfulfilled desire.  As I stepped into the kitchen, I looked over at the sink, and decided that I would focus my attention and effort on making it gleam.

First I rinsed away all the bread crumbs and bits of egg from my husband’s and my breakfast.  Then I shook the can of Bon Ami several times over the porcelain, and began gently scouring.  I rinsed again.  Once my sink itself gleamed white, I wiped off the stainless steel faucet and sprayer, grabbed the dish towel and ran it over my handiwork.  A final look, and I was satisfied.

Having the intention to clean up only one area allowed me to remain more present to what I was doing than I had ever been in the past, when, frantic to avoid writing, I became a whirlwind of activity, not settling into one moment, and never feeling satisfied.  In fact, my anxiety about writing had fused with my dissatisfaction about the state of my kitchen, and I generally ended the morning with a sense of malaise.

Now I was able to sit down at my desk and begin writing.  And I have done pretty much the same ever since.  If it’s not my kitchen, it’s making my bed, or watering my indoor plants.   During the summer, it’s deadheading one area of my perennial bed, or digging in fertilizer around a rose.

Always, I allow myself to focus on only one area to bring up to my standard of neat and clean.

My client discovered that his toilette needed to come before sitting down to write.  If he allowed himself to shower and dry off without hurrying, he was able to sit down and begin writing–before putting in a machine-load of laundry or paying bills or answering the telephone.

Enriching our relationship with writing means discovering what allows us to feel balanced and safe enough to begin putting words on the page.  We can create a context within which writing happens.  One of the ways to do this is to explore what we need to do to prepare, not over prepare, to sit down and write.  For one writer, preparing might be steeping a full-bodied cup of Assam tea.  For another, it could be a 20-minute meditation. For yet another, a minute or two of jumping-jacks.

Each of us is unique, and it is up to each of us to discover what it is we need, to give ourself permission to write.

Identifying Your Anxiety/ies

A former client recently interviewed me for a podcast he was creating on the subject of failure.  He wanted me to talk mainly about a writer’s fear of criticism and rejection, to help his listeners understand their fear of failure and eventually learn to write in spite of it.

When I told him I didn’t believe that fear of failure was the root of writing inhibition, he seemed surprised–even though he and I had worked together for some months.

“But that’s what I’m thinking about whenever I procrastinate on my writing projects,” he disagreed.  “I’m worried about people telling me my writing isn’t any good.”

I told him that worry about critics response to what he wrote might float on the surface of his avoidance, but that beneath that worry, lurks a deeper fear: the fear that his writing might be quite good, and that his success might create waves within an important relationship.

For years I adhered to the fear-of-criticism view of writing block. If people postponed sitting down to write, it was because they were afraid of a bad grade, of the story or journal article being rejected, of literary agents turning them down,  or–if they were “lucky enough to get this far–of negative reviews.

Then one day, as a client told me about his inability to write the kinds of articles he needed to be awarded tenure, I realized that what he was saying was only a small part of the story.  After all, this client had gone to Harvard as an undergraduate, then to one of the most prestigious graduate schools in the country, and finally to an assistant professorship at a  top-ranked university.  Though he insisted that he felt like a failure, he had a robust  string of impressive successes behind him.

Over the next months, I began thinking about my clients‘ writing inhibitions in a new light.  Most of them had experienced quite a bit of success by the time they came to work with me, either in school or in their chosen careers.  Yet they had become focussed on the possibility of failure.  So focussed that their fear of walking into failure’s trap had paralyzed them.

Why?  Why with a bundle of success behind them could they see only failure in the future as far as their writing was concerned?

As I explored with my clients their relationships in their  family of origin, with their parents and siblings, along with their current relationships, I began to discern a similarity: whether in the past or in the present, my clients believed, often unconsciously, that somebody in their life would suffer as a result of their writing success.

The Harvard graduate was protecting his father, who had died several years earlier, by not being able to write.  This father, who had been nationally prominent, had been involved in a scandal, and had never fully recovered his status.  For another client, it was her mother, who had died of cancer when the client was quite young, never having published the novels she wrote. Yet another client was concerned that her husband might resent her success, particularly the time she took away from their family to write.

Without realizing it, each of these clients was protecting a loved one by inhibiting their own writing.  The Harvard graduate, the woman whose mother had died of cancer, the client concerned about her husband’s resentment–each harbored the deeply buried belief that their success as a writer would be unfair to their father, their mother or their family.

Of course, such deeply held beliefs are more complex than I’ve portrayed them.  And they are not easily retrieved.  It takes persistence and patience.  It takes learning to be kind to oneself, to create a safe environment in which to write and explore what lies beneath the fear of failure we all conveniently reach for.

If You Can’t Sit Down to Write, Get Started, Keep Writing, or Complete a Writing Project,

 you are most likely struggling with what I’m now calling writing inhibition. This simply means that at some point during your writing process, something gets in the way and inhibits your moving onto the next phase. And while what “gets in the way” is in some sense quite individual, it is not most of the obstacles my clients point to when we begin discussing their writing. What actually keeps you from writing is not, for example, the exercise regimen you resolved to follow on New Year’s Day, or the dirty refrigerator calling out to you, or your perennial bed that needs weeding—not even your aged mother who demands attention. And it’s not the bills that need to be paid, the emails you should answer, the phone calls you should return.

Any and all of the above time gobblers can seem to get in the way of your writing. A dirty refrigerator can feel urgent.


Your 98-year-old mother’s needs may seem overpowering. Unanswered emails can cry out for answers. But if you step back for a moment, you’ll understand that these are actually convincing excuses to keep you away from your writing. Any chore that feels imperative, can wait fifteen minutes or a half-hour. Most can be delayed even for an hour or two. What makes your mother, your dirty refrigerator, your emails feel so important has more to do with your relationship with writing than to the tasks that keep calling you away from your computer or the blank page. What makes any of these tasks seem urgent is actually the degree of anxiety you feel about engaging with your writing, not the task itself. Not all writers are aware of just how anxious they feel when it comes to their writing.

While some of us know that sitting down to write brings on a wave of discomfort, others have pushed their anxiety so far down, they are not aware of it. In fact, the more anxious they feel, the more urgent other tasks and activities seem. Being pulled toward the refrigerator or the telephone feels a lot better than being pushed away from your writing. And, once your refrigerator is sparkling, or your bills all paid, you can commend yourself for a job well done—usually not the case with our writing, which is a process rather than a delineated task.

For the moment, perhaps this is all you need to know: whatever you may be telling yourself, your friends and family about why you’re not writing, it’s probably not true. What’s keeping you away from your novel, your short story, your essay is the anxiety, conscious or not, that writing provokes in you.  Just what your particular anxiety may be, and how you can best deal with it, is, of course, no simple matter. In future posts, we’ll explore this anxiety in general and your personal brand of anxiety in particular.  And along the way, we’ll uncover strategies for tempering it.


Not Writer’s Block


I should never have included the words “writer’s block” in the title of my book.  I knew better, but the publisher requested the subtitle “A Supportive and Practical Guide to Working Through Writer’s Block, and I agreed.  I knew it was a mistake.  I knew those two words would be misleading, would limit my readership by conjuring images of women and men in agony, embattled writers wringing their hands as they tried to write–or even thought about writing.

What I understand by writer’s block certainly includes those writers who struggle mightily to write.  Those writers whose stomach churns each time they think about the blank page.  But in all my years of working with writers, I have learned that writer’s block encompasses so much more than the stereotype, so much more than the inability to fill a page with words.

What I mean by writer’s block is a continuum of difficulties or interferences in the process of writing.  Writer’s block can certainly involve avoidance and procrastination, unearthing every possible excuse to keep you away from the blank page—exercise, taxes, a dirty sink or refrigerator, email to be answered, closets to be organized.  And it can well include hand ringing.

But writer’s block also means difficulty completing a writing project once you have embarked, even if you have managed to write right up until the last page or paragraph.  I’ve had clients who struggled with just this kind of closure, happily sitting down to write, fluidly filling page after page—until it was time to reach a conclusion.  Then, suddenly, they had a new idea, which required revising the entire manuscript.

Oh, you might say, but that’s happened to me, and my revision process was quite legitimate and my final work much improved.  I wouldn’t disagree.  The kind of writer I am thinking about repeats this Eureka moment at the end of the article or essay or story again and again and again, so that she or he never arrives at “The End,” but is continually thrown back to the beginning of the same piece.

I’ve also worked with writers who begin one essay or story, poem or novel, then decide that what they are writing isn’t really the story they want to tell, the idea they want to explore or the poem they want to write. So they tear up the pages and begin all over again—only to arrive at the same conclusion once more.  After several months, they have yet to find what it is they really want to write.

And that’s not all.  I’ve encountered other writers who after completing their essay, novel, poem or story, slip it into a metaphorical drawer and happily jump into their next writing project.  Over the years, these writers accumulate a trove of manuscripts that have never seen the light of day. Certainly, I understand reluctance to begin the submission process. I know how much stamina it takes to submit manuscripts, find agents and publishers.  And I have certainly experienced the anguish of rejection. What I’m talking about here are writers who have never, or hardly ever, submitted any of their work for publication.  Writers who talk about submitting and publishing some day, but for whom some day recedes perpetually into the future—once I finish this novel, once my kids are in school, once I’ve gotten the rest of my life organized—once, once once.

From where I sit, having listened to and talked with scores of writers, I am fairly certain that the above interruptions are all manifestations of what I would like to reenvision as writing inhibitions, inhibitions that can interfere with any stage of the writing process, from not being able to sit down to begin writing, through not completing what you have begun, and including never submitting writing you have been able to complete.

Each of these inhibitions has similar causes, different perhaps in their particulars for each of us, but similar in the amount of anxiety they unleash.  And it is this anxiety, this extreme discomfort, that makes it so difficult for us to sit down to write, complete what we have begun to write, or send what we have written out into the world.