Seth Godin wrote an incredible piece of advice over a decade ago, likening talking to writing. Nobody wakes up with talker’s block as an excuse not to speak; they just speak poorly until they get their talking back. Similarly, the solution to writer’s block is, “Just write poorly. Continue to write poorly, in public, until you can write better.” This might sound obvious, though it was near-revelatory to me at the time.
There’s nuance here, though; there is such a thing as talker’s block.
In Platonic, author and PhD Marisa G. Franco writes about Lauren, who experienced low self esteem; her friends went on trips without her, and decided to room together—leaving her out. Lauren sought out group therapy, and behaved in such a reserved and quiet way that the group even almost forgot that she was a part of it. She’d fallen into a pattern of making herself so minuscule that people forgot about her.
That’s talker’s block in action. It was inherently connected with a person’s self esteem.
That example is also much closer to creative work. If you’re dabbling in creative work, you want to express yourself; you believe your work is a reflection of your worth. You want people experiencing your creative work to be so moved—the same way another work moved you—that the work is very precious to you. That’s where a creative block starts emerging.
You could probably design something for work, or for a client, or as a favor for a friend super easily; the second it’s for yourself, it gets much more difficult. Your esteem is tied to your work.
As Lauren got more connected and comfortable with the group, she started disagreeing with someone else, challenged group members to share more, and took greater ownership of the group space. In a sense, this structure and guidance started a self-fulfilling prophecy; Lauren was able to take actions to improve her self esteem, and to make her presence felt.
Lauren found an environment where she felt safe enough to practice speaking up. It’s important for you, as a person doing creative work, to find a group of people like this too. That’s one solution.
Another is to make your work much less precious. In a recent episode of DdeunDdeun, in which South Korean comedian (known also as the nation’s MC) Yoo Jae Seok says, “To become a true talker, the level you need to reach is to not even think about, ‘What should we talk about today?’”
That’s what showing up every day is about.
It’s not about the sigma grindset of amplifying your voice until you’ve found fortune and fame, it’s about practicing your right to say something, because you have that right.
Both solutions support each other, too. As you realize that your friends will still be friends with you, even if you misspeak or say something they disagree with, you get more comfortable and continue expressing.
Similarly, as you start making your work and realize your community or audience—or you, yourself!—will still appreciate you even if you produce some bad work, then you’ll feel the block slowly unblock itself.
P.S., Another example of talker’s block: