Stymied? Write Anyway

Have any of you dragged your heels (or fingertips) on writing projects this year? Silly question, I know. Maybe I should ask: which one or two of you have been particularly productive in writing or other pursuits? In 2020? This week?

Amy Grier

I thought so. 

I found a kindred spirit in the 11/5/2020 Brevity Blog when I read writer and editor Amy Griers post, Write Anyway. Amy’s in the midst of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and is finding COVID-19, a presidential election in the U.S., and questions like, “Why bother?” interfere with the NaNoWriMo goal to write a 50,000-word  novel in thirty days. It’s déjà vu of Amy’s first NaNoWriMo in November 2004. 

“Three days into NaNoWriMo, George W. Bush was elected,” Amy writes. “The mandate for change had not materialized. Many writers found themselves overwhelmed by sadness, anger, and even despair. Some dropped out, unable to see the point of fast-drafting a novel while the country veered toward an ever more right-leaning agenda. Uncertainty and fear about the future clogged their creative energy.”

Even though it appears the outcome this November will be different (as I write, Joe Biden is leading Donald Trump in the vote-counting), the doubts Amy felt about her writing in 2004 creep in for me as I work on an essay collection about climate change and the Salish Sea.

And they appeared with each of my earlier books, too.

Back in 2004, Amy came up with a mantra “to work through creative stagnation.”

Write anyway.

Any of you recognize these threats to writing that Amy cited?

It seems pointless…

My work is mediocre…

I don’t know what I’m doing, and I believe no one cares…

The world is in chaos…

I’m scared…

When these messages pop up for Amy, she jots them on sticky notes and ends each with: Write anyway.

I’m starting my own collection.

What mantras, practices, rewards, or tricks do you lean on when doubt and fear creep in to your writing?


  1. Wow, I think I’ve always followed this mantra without knowing. Thanks for the share, now I too have to check out her post. Wishing you the best and don’t forget to write anyway!

    1. Thanks, Stuart. Yes, do read all of Amy’s terrific post. I’m sure she’d feel supported hearing about your experience. Great to know we’re all cheering each other on.

  2. I LOVE THIS! The pictures of your stickies have re-inspired me, even, especially how you write your fear/intrusive thought down as well. Whenever we can externalize a fear, it loses some of its power.

    1. Thanks, Gretchen (and Amy!). I posted those sticky notes on the big flip chart sheet I hung in my office. It’s my map to my essay collection. Every time I look at it, it reminds me to write anyway.

  3. You hit the nail on the head, Iris! This is a mind-numbing time. But what better way to shake the circulation back into your neurons than to write? You go, friend!

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