Let me be clear: I don't believe in writer's block. This is not to say therefore that I consider writing to be easy. It's not. Neither is scoring original music beyond simply noodling around for a few minutes. Same goes for drafting architectural plans, generating computer animation, or designing a new line of prêt-à-porter. Creativity taken seriously, even if you’re writing comedy, takes hard work.
Therein lies my principal point with regard to writers block.
Even the highest performing athletes cannot run or swim or throw a ball at their best like a machine switched on and off. Sustained high quality performance always requires preparation, without infinite amounts of time to get it done. As any athlete will attest, some days are simply harder to complete workouts than others. There may be a myriad of reasons for this, of course, and there may be a range of quality in the ultimate output from effort expended, but if a person is focused and intent, it's always possible to do something constructive.
Not “do it all”. Just “something”.
Why should this be different on the written page, or screen? Without a doubt writers have good days and bad days, too. Some days the words tumble out like gravel from a dump truck. Some days they’re stuck deep in the muck. But when the right words don’t just come out, as inevitably will happen from time to time, the pro knows that there’s no excuse to calling it quits. Distraction is always easier to embrace then sustained focus. It's easier to lie on the couch then to pick pebbles one by one out of the mud.
Aware of the potential to overuse my athletic metaphor, Nike's traditional slogan offers surprisingly good guidance here. I find that when I'm stuck on a writing project, when I can't think of a smart way to say something obvious, or a clever way to say something vital, the only way forward is to simply add one more word. After that I add another. After that I add one more. Over time these words add up. Sometimes I wind up throwing the collection of hard cast words out, but just as often I don't. I find that from my worst creative days, I often find myself keeping one or two little things that unlock much bigger prizes on better, more productive days. By staying with the task—writing in this case, but the same for any creative enterprise—you gain access to a broader range of your own humanity, life experiences, and by extension, creative nuances and perceptions.
The key to overcoming writer's block is to make peace with the fact that you are not drafting perfection in your first expression. Movement forward is more important than your ultimate destination. If you keep going, hard though that may sometimes be, it's inevitable that you'll ultimately get somewhere. If you decide that there is a blockage in your road, the blockage has become your new destination. You already know this: you’re stopped in front of it.