Listening to the Lessons of Writer’s Block

Too often when creative people want to write but don’t do it, they say they’re blocked and leave it at that. ” Blocked” is a catchall term that could mean any number of things.

When we tell others we’re blocked, they give us sympathy. If we use that label when we talk to ourselves, we justify our self- pity. To make matters worse, there’s no miracle cure for being blocked. The only remedy for victims of creative block is to endure and wait for the condition to pass.

Only when we drop the convenient label and admit that what we’re talking about is making a choice not to work on our creative projects, can we learn the lessons this condition has to teach us.

The first step to resolving the problem is simply to find some undisturbed time, close your eyes, breathe deeply and ask yourself what is stopping you from doing what you say you want to accomplish.

The second step is more difficult. You need to be willing to listen to the answers you receive. That means shutting off excuses. Open yourself to hear the answers your inner wisdom provides.

Sometimes we may find that we’re not working because, even though we’ve said creating is a high priority, we’ve not scheduled time for it. We might be expending too much energy in other areas.

Often what we mistake for block is really the incubation stage of the creative process, the still time between envisioning a project we might want to do and acting to make that vision a reality. We need a quiet mind and a peaceful heart in order to receive the inspirations that result from incubation.

Thinking that we’re blocked and beating ourselves up for it shut down the creative process.

At other times anxiety stops us from working. This discomfort can be about what other people might say or come from self-doubts about our talent. When our inner voice tells us anxiety is the culprit, we need to ask ourselves what the anxiety is about.

Difficulty starting or maintaining momentum may be a strong signal that our hearts aren’t in what we’re doing. We might have begun the task we aren’t finishing because other people said we should or because we thought we ought to. It could be that our true passion lies elsewhere.

Lessons mean little unless we apply them to our lives. Based on the information we receive, we can deliberately remove the obstacles that stand between ourselves and creating.

You might decide to change your schedule or eliminate unnecessary tasks. You may choose to accept that your idea needs to cook a while longer and, in the meantime, create circumstances that help it along. Meditating, walking, swimming or cleaning closets can help. If anxiety is causing you to stall, you can intentionally stop those worrisome thoughts or counter them with positive self-talk. Depending on what your inner wisdom has to say, you may consider working on a different project, working in a different medium or genre, or taking another path to self-expression.

When we acknowledge that we have chosen not to write, it follows that we also have the choice to get on with the work at hand. That beats being a helpless victim of block any day.

Creative Write:

To be “blocked” is a metaphor for not doing something. It is only one metaphor out of many you can use to describe the condition. Remember a time when you procrastinated or held yourself back from accomplishing a goal you said you really wanted to achieve. Make a quick list of five to ten alternative metaphors based in nature or the body that describe what this process was like. Pick one and use it as you write about the time you remembered.

Now step outside yourself to invent and write in the third person (he or she) about an imaginary character in a similar situation. How does that person extricate him or herself to get moving once again? What does he or she learn from this? After you’ve finished your story or poem, reflect on what you have learned about your own process.

News for Writers:

Personal Journaling Magazine is seeking 1,500 word submissions to its Joy of Writing Contest. You can enter as often as like before the November 26, 2002 deadline. The prize is $100.00 and publication in the magazine. For more details visit the Personal Journaling Website at http://www.writersdigest.com/journaling/ .

Calling all poets and short story writers! Pudding House, a quality small press, is looking for poems and short, short stories of one to three pages about living spiritually in a consumer culture for a new anthology. The deadline is July 30, 2002. For more information visit www.puddinghouse.com .