When I was a kid, I could sit down put the pencil to the paper and the words would just flow; then I was diagnosed with OCD and things started changing for me. The words don't flow anymore, and whenever I try to write I typically just stare at the page waiting, or get a few lines down before scrapping it as hopeless drivel. I know what my problem is, thankfully, it's simply that I'm over thinking it all. In this question I'm asking for advice on how to write again, I'll never get the words to flow quite the same way again, but maybe if I can find a system to stop myself from thinking too much and editing myself, I can at least start writing again. I love to write, it's the only way I've ever been able to express myself and my emotions properly. Through writing, I'm free, but without it, I feel caged and lost. So please, help me find a way to write again.
If marijuana is legal where you live, you should consider it. The marijuana you find on the street is typically “party marijuana,” but at a dispensary, you will find many different strains for all kinds of purposes, including treating ADD and OCD, while allowing you to still think clearly and have creative energy. A key thing is that they don’t have the horrible side effects of the complex chemicals that are found at a corporate pharmacy and prescribed by corporate doctors, which can not only hurt your body in myriad ways but can often switch off all creativity. Choose an edible marijuana product like gummy bears or use a vaporizer for maximum healthfulness.
Also, keep in mind that OCD or not, writing is like working out in that you can’t go from zero minutes of writing per day to 8 hours of writing per day overnight. You should set a goal to write for 5 good minutes per day and once you have achieved that, work on 10 good minutes per day, and so on until you are doing a 4 hour session. A lot of writers — OCD or not — try to do too much too soon and then feel like they have failed, but it’s just that your burnout level is very low if you haven’t been writing daily. Treat it like a workout plan and allow your body and mind time to adapt to more and more writing.
And also remember that when we are kids, we have a special energy and focus that enables us to learn the things we need to learn to survive. It’s not quite the same when we are adults. Again, OCD or not.
Another thing you can try is exercise. For some people with OCD, a really good workout plan sort of tires out the OCD and gives them some relief. You might find that if you workout for an hour, you then have a window of 1–4 hours when you have the best chance of doing a good writing session.
It is good that you asked for some help. Keep working at this and asking for help as you go and you will conquer it. Don’t be too down about it because many great writers faced similar challenges.
It sounds like you are dealing with an 'inner editor' problem, and that you think it is being exacerbated by your OCD.
My recommendation is to begin keeping a journal, or some physical archive of paper, where you intentionally write total BS. Write the most absurd, stupid, poorly conceived collection of ideas you can muster. Consider it a victory to have a garbage-fire of your bad writing within arm's reach. Add drawings, comics, quotes of song lyrics if you like. If it comes to you, just shove it in there.
The idea is, creative writing requires a special brand of out-of-the-box thinking--one that most people don't use a whole lot, and that is devoid of the analytical commentary that we have going on anywhere else, a.k.a the "inner editor". By practicing intentionally undermining this commentary, even temporarily, you help strengthen your flow of uncensored ideas.
Also, occasionally one of your really bad ideas turns out to inspire a good idea. A sentence intended to be nonsense might actually mean something. Uncensored ideas can be very useful sometimes.
As for your OCD interfering with your writing, I think the answer to that lies in things you've probably heard before: meditation, exercise, regular sleep, deep breathing, playing an instrument, etc. These are not the cliched, one-size-fits-all solutions that some people think they are. They really are likely to help manage not just OCD, but any mental illness. OCD will not, as you likely know, ever depart from you completely, but you would not be the first to tame the beast and make something incredible in spite of it. Do not be discouraged.
Best of luck.
Listen to music. I suggest Two Steps From Hell or Thomas Bergerson. Both of them write inspirational music pieces that will let your mind be transported somewhere else other than scrutinizing your work.
Another thing: is it because you've been diagnosed with OCD that you feel you can't write freely anymore? Maybe this diagnosis has put a mental block in your way. Maybe think to yourself something like "just because I have OCD doesn't mean I have no flow".
You might try voice recording instead of writing. I sometimes brainstorm by recording during my morning commute. It uses a different part of your brain... Can't hurt to try.
Don't be offended, but what does OCD have to do with this? What intrusive thoughts are you dealing with that keep you from writing? Is it just the editing and rewriting too much, so much that you realize its not a real problem with the writing but OCD? Is it you need this "feeling" to make the words "flow." Most people with OCD realize something in their thought process is irrational.
Maybe you need to identify your OCD thoughts and follow what your counselor is telling you, assuming you still have one (you mentioned you were diagnosed.)
Deal with the OCD first or at the same time you're fighting your writers block.
If this is making a significant impact on your life, and if this is keeping you from enjoying life, then get more counseling and help or practice what you've been taught. It is a lifelong problem you are battling, so don't give up.
On a side note, it sounds like you are waiting for inspiration before writing. If that is true you will never write very much. You have to discipline yourself, and with life's responsibilities that is not easy.
OCD is a common condition, and it is on the anxiety spectrum. It's usually successfully treatable using a combination of psychotherapy (particularly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and often medications.
As the conditions are related on the same spectrum, any strategy those with anxiety use to overcome the hurdle of starting to write may be useful for OCD. There have been a number of questions about anxiety on this site that may help.
One of the paralyzing features of anticipatory anxiety, often a prominent feature of OCD, is getting caught in a circle of thought about "what ifs" or obsessing about getting something perfect the first time through. The most commonly successful theme in what I have read so far for writers with anxiety related conditions involves force-starting.
Essentially, the key is to break the inertia by starting the ink flowing (or fingers moving) with whatever comes to mind - without regard to form or fit. Title the document "Rough Draft V1" so you have permission for it to be super raw, and try not to review and revise as you go along. Try to just get ideas out as they come without caring how they fall. Make a goal of a sentence, then paragraph, or page etc. Promise yourself no one will read it, or whatever fears hold you back, and just jump in. Writing groups like Nanomo are effective for some people.
But the underlying condition isn't a permanent sentence for suffering. Seeking help is important for wellbeing in all areas of life.
I've never understood the method of "just sit and write until something magical happens and the damn bursts". This seems to me to be a version of "fake it 'til you make it", and little wonder if you feel the results are "drivel" when you go through the motions without any goal. I imagine it is the opposite feeling of what you hoped to feel. Now you have a time commitment, a deadline, and still no clear objective. This is a formula for anxiety. You've created an obligation, but no clear destination, so the results are measured in word count. How would you know if you ever got it right?
Many people work this way, and more power to them and their editors. When I was younger I could "discovery write" and fill notebooks in longhand, but truth be told the results were juvenile. I could hit an emotional tone, but the plot was telegraphed. There was only one character: Mary Sue, and each scene was very like another. I wanted to write intrigue, but I was writing wallpaper that continued on and on in an endless pattern loop.
Consider a positive aspect: you have matured. What once seemed easy and emotionally fulfilling, you now view with a critical eye. I understand the fear of self-sabotage, but rather than beat yourself up maybe take a moment and realize many of your other tastes have matured too, everything from making dinner to dating to career choices has deeper meaning and purpose now than it did when you were young. You wouldn't approach any of these the same way now. It's not enough to just write words on a page, you want it to have some meaning.
You will never become a composer, much less a successful pianist, just sitting down to play "whatever pours out of you" for an hour a day. It's a Catch-22: without skill you cannot improvise. Without practice you can't develop the skill. But musicians don't just sit down and play an entire piece out of their emotions, they repeat simple scales then transpose keys and do it again. They play certain note combinations over and over until it becomes reflexive. They study a well-known composition to understand its structure…. This is not music, it is practice.
I suggest you try a different approach. Narrow WHAT you write when you sit to "practice", even if it is just a throwaway situation suggested by any number of plot/character systems. Make it a game with certain goals you want to tick off but make the goals clear and small, so small it can be accomplished in one sentence, then one paragraph, then one short scene. You'll know that you have finished because you have ticked off the goal: 3 things one character would openly say about another. A short dialog where one wants something and the other doesn't, etc.
In addition to structuring your practice sessions with simple goals, it can also help to use a focused-concentration method like Pomodoro Technique. This system divides your work time into short sessions of concentration followed by a physical break where you step away from the task, typically 25 minutes working to a specific goal and a 5 minute break. This pattern is then repeated several times with a longer break. There are Pomodoro apps, but you just need a timer to let you know when the session is over.
The idea is that you should never force yourself to sit in front of a blank page hoping something inspiring will just hit you in the head while you feel all creativity drain away. As an adult, it's usually better to work towards a specific goal. You'll need a little adjustment before your writing goals fit into the time allotted, but the Pomodoro Method is all about establishing positive habits by finishing small tasks. Eventually you are just writing towards your goal and the timer becomes less important, but you can always return to the discipline of small tasks within a set period of time.