"I kind of stopped writing for a while. I did this because writing got hard. We get to a certain age, or a certain level of education, or a certain something, and it doesn’t come quite as easily as it used to. And there are so many reasons. We have things to do. We think every word we put down sucks. We get caught up in the little things. We compare our work endlessly to that of our favourite authors. We come across something in our outline that doesn’t work anymore and it seems daunting and impossible to fix it, so we quit. I wrote almost twenty novels between 1992 and 2000, and then for eleven years, nothing. A lot of false starts, a lot of fanfiction, a lot of outlines, and not a single manuscript. The stories I wanted to tell didn’t go away. They just piled up. Some got repurposed into fanfiction ideas. Some turned into roleplays with my friends. But it’s not the same as writing down and really creating something, and when I tried to do that, it was like I was lost in an impossible labyrinth. The walls were all the reasons writing had stopped being the easiest thing in the world and started being one of the most frustrating, and it was like I couldn’t get out."
I have also recently fought my way free of this particular labyrinth, and the worst thing about it is that you're sure you must be the only one trapped there. Because a REAL writer would have a map, or a vorpal sword, or a helpful talking animal so as to breeze through this whole ordeal, but you're left trudging around in circles and taking inventory of your pockets and wondering how a lipstick or a ball of string is going to help you get out of this mess. You must not be a real writer, clearly.
So yes, I'm definitely looking forward to reading about Kate's experience, and thought I would post my own strategies for solving the labyrinth:
* Make up your mind to do it. Do or do not, there is no try. My parents used to tell me (about any number of things) that "you don't have to like it, you just have to do it." As a kid I found that profoundly unhelpful, but as a grownup it's oddly liberating. You don't have to do it well, or graciously, or quickly, or without drinking and whining and eating a lot of chocolate; you just have to do it.
Draw a line in the sand - something nice and immutable and impossible to argue with, like a date, preferably an imminent one - and tell yourself that beyond this line there will be no more not writing. I have a marvelous quote on my office wall, where I will see it every day: "Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."
* Don't bash your head against anxiety for too long at a stretch. I once read a strategy for overcoming phobias that boiled down to "stand closer, stay longer" - this is sort of the same principle. I wrote my MA thesis in two-page chunks because that was about as much as I could take without feeling physically ill. But two pages a day still piles up eventually. And slowly the productivity made me feel a little better, and I could sit with it a little longer and get a little more done. Again, set the bar for volume and enthusiasm low. You don't have to like it; you just have to do it. Small increments are, helpfully, also easy to stuff into the cracks in the rest of your life (like the 2h between the kids' bedtime and mine).
* Bribe yourself with treats. Pour yourself a glass of wine, buy yourself a fluffy coffee concoction, sit yourself in your very favourite and most comfortable spot with a pastry. Even better, save your treats for writing time; then you have something to look forward to, even when writing is about as appealing as a poke in the eye. Don't save the treats as a reward that you can only have after being productive; that just makes it more depressing if you screw up.
* Find allies in productivity. They don't even have to be writing. If you know somebody who's in school, who's coming up on a work deadline, who's knitting something, who has to do their taxes - get together and sit quietly together while you all get shit done, whether at somebody's house, at a pub, or over Skype. It's like having a gym buddy; they keep you accountable. (Although you have to be a little careful with this one, because god knows it's easy to get derailed into just hanging out and drinking wine. Not that this has happened to me. Ahem.)
The labyrinth has no power over you. Give it hell.