A Curious Case of Writer’s Block
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I’ve never had writer’s block.
In fact, I categorized it with the many things I don’t believe in at all (e.g. Easter bunny, moon landing, terrible two’s, etc…).
Two months ago I made a public declaration (as a requirement for the upcoming completion of my Master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology) that I would (FINALLY!) complete a book I have been talking about for nearly 10 years.
It is a book that represents profound healing for myself, and (hopefully) many, many others.
A funny thing happened as soon as I made that one promise – “I will complete a publication-ready manuscript by June 2016.” –
… my creative well went dry.
Not only did I find myself stalled on working on the book, I found it difficult to write anything at all.
Strangest feeling ever.
I don’t ever recall being short for words, thoughts or lessons (just ask my daughter).
But there it was, staring me right in the face in the form of a pixel-free white screen.
I tried to trick myself into starting by doing some purely fun writing…
Is this writer’s block?
So unfamiliar to me
A stream turned to stone
There once was a woman who wrote
Because language and words float her boat
But one surprise day
The words went away
Where was that darn antidote?
Fun as that was, it didn’t lead to anything serious or productive.
So… when there’s something you both want and have to do, and it begins to play hide-and-seek with you, what to do?
Here is my non-exhaustive (and often conflicting) list of ideas:
- Push through, aka feel the fear and do it anyway
- Change the language in your head from “I have to…” to “I want to…” or “I choose to…”.
- Do the opposite (Can’t write? Dance!)
- Move your body
- Don’t just do something, sit there. (Keep reminding the Muse you are ready to receive by showing up – pen in hand, smile on face.)
- Rally some friendly support
And my favorite…
Curiosity. (No cats harmed in this experiment.)
Curiosity is the antidote to paralysis, indecisiveness and the crippling grip of fear.
Instead of getting on the downward slip-n-slide of, “Oh my God, I can’t write!!!” I could instead glide along on the magic carpet of, “I’m curious about this sensation I’m experiencing. I think I’ll explore a bit.”
- Curiosity got me to try different things, from silly to serious.
- Curiosity kept me directed toward my ultimate goal, even when the going got tough.
- Curiosity kept asking the question, “What’s REALLY going on here?” otherwise known as, “What am I afraid of?”
- Curiosity led me to excavate all the dark, sticky muck I had layered on during my decade of NOT writing this book. All the fear about being raw, vulnerable and excruciatingly honest. All the self-doubt about my abilities and qualifications to write what I wanted to. All of the unprocessed emotional remnants of the most eventful period of my life.
- Curiosity unclogged the drain.
From there, it was possible to graciously appreciate what I had been through and forgive myself for all the self-judgment it had caused.
The process was incredibly healing. I accessed a level of self-compassion I didn’t know I had.
It allowed me to use my favorite tools – devotion, courage and joy – in service to something that has always brought me great satisfaction – writing.
And it eventually re-connected me with my humanity, my desires and my purpose.
The truth is, I still don’t believe in writer’s block. I don’t believe our creative impulse ever leaves us. It may become a bit hard to find (a la car keys, socks, and anything in my daughter’s room), but that’s just an invitation to playfully come find it again.
Curious, isn’t it?